The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has clarified comments made by major mobile operators, saying they were concerned that the regulator's new tariff rule would "do more harm than good" to the overall industry.
The watchdog confirmed that the new maximum mobile calling tariff of 99 satang per minute will be calculated on average price, not every single minute as the operators thought, said secretary-general Takorn Tantasit.
Operators that will be required to adopt the new rate are those defined by the NBTC as significant market players (SMPs), the ones with a market share above 25%.
As of Dec 2012, AIS had a market share of 43%, DTAC 30%, and TrueMove 24%.
AIS currently has 36 million subscribers.
Mobile leader Advanced Info Service (AIS) is worried that the watchdog's 99-satang tariff rule might have an impact on customers using phones mainly for receiving calls and those who had flat-rate tariff plans.
Furthermore, AIS expressed concern that the new price cap will have a domino effect across the industry, including the rule governing the expiration date on prepaid mobile service.
Mr Takorn insisted that the 99-satang-per-minute regulation will be based on the average rate, not per minute basis.
The NBTC has set Jan 18 as the deadline to enforce three regulations encompassing the maximum 99-satang tariff, the rule requiring operators to start properly registering prepaid SIM cards and scrapping the expiry date on prepaid mobile credit.
AIS chief of marketing Somchai Lertsuthiwong said mobile operators' revenue per minute is 53 satang, well below the 99-satang cap requirement.
Mr Somchai explained that the current expense for maintaining a phone number is about 50 baht per month, as the company must pay the network vendors for home location register system.
An additional cost of 2 baht per number per month is also needed to pay to the NBTC.
Mr Somchai said AIS currently has more than 3,000 promotional packages, but 66 packages out of the total complied with the rule.
Mr Somchai added that AIS sells around 3.5 million new SIM cards a month.
However, overall net additional new subscribers were only 4 million per year.
To scrap the prepaid expiry date, operators need to stock a significant amount of mobile numbers to ensure that service runs smoothly.
"If there is no longer validity period on prepaid service, AIS is likely to face a shortage of 500,000 mobile numbers next month, surging to 1.7 million in March," Mr Somchai said.
About the author
- Writer: Komsan Tortermvasana
Position: Senior Business Reporter