Regulators are likely to have operators slash 3G data fees by 15-20% before they can start providing the services on the new spectrum, but major players have asked for more time after the rollout before such a decision is made.
A regulation on fees will be concluded next month, said Takorn Tantasit, secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission.
The coming 3G services must be 15-20% cheaper than the average standard prices, he said, adding that the price for voice calls based on the existing rule was capped at 99 satang per minute.
Current mobile data fees are around 300-900 baht a month for postpaid unlimited packages.
However, all operators have adopted the so-called fair use policy for all unlimited packages in which 3G speed is possible only for a fixed amount of data transfer, usually 1-5GB a month. After the quotas are used up, 2G or EDGE speeds will kick in.
For prepaid packages, the data fees range around 25 satang a minute or 2 baht per megabyte.
The low 3G spectrum auction prices prompted the NBTC to announce its intention to regulate data fees.
However, 3G mobile licensees found the 15-20% price cuts tough. They said that the real cost of operation requires more than one year to calculate, but they firmly believe the coming services will be much cheaper than existing 2G services.
They point out there are other dimensions to consider apart from prices.
Advanced Info service chief Wichian Mektrakarn floated the idea of allowing the operators to keep the prices at current levels but have them offer double or triple the existing bandwidth capacity and validity periods.
Furthermore, operators need around one year after the rollout to calculate real service costs from rollout investment and market mechanisms.
However, Mr Wichian insists that the fierce competition will slash charges automatically to a rate much lower than current prices.
Earlier, True chief Supachai Chearawanont said the company strongly believes that 3G on 2100MHz will offer much lower prices.
In fact, there has not been any condition in 3G licences ruling how much licensees must reduce prices before rolling out the service.
The problem is the definition of reduction. If an operator offers services with much greater bandwidth or a longer period of use at the current price, does that constitute a reduction?
DTAC chief Jon Eddy Abdullah said operators may have to meet with the NBTC before launching services to clarify the meaning of reduction that was never part of 3G licensing conditions.
About the author
- Writer: Komsan Tortermvasana
Position: Senior Business Reporter