The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) is threatening strong legal action against CAT Telecom (CAT) if the state enterprise still intends to keep frequencies after its concessions expire.
The commission also warned the government and the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Ministry against intervening in favour of CAT, said Suthipol Thaweechaikarn, an NBTC commissioner.
True Move, a unit of True Corporation, and Digital Phone, a unit of Advanced Info Service, each run 12.5 megahertz of bandwidth on the 1800-MHz frequency under CAT concessions set to expire in September.
By law, all spectra must be returned to the NBTC once existing concessions expire. The NBTC then reallocates the bandwidth for public use.
CAT is asking the ICT Ministry to press the NBTC to allow CAT to use the frequency after the concessions expire, citing national security.
Mr Suthipol said the NBTC would seek cooperation from CAT before taking any action, then petition the court if the state telecom does not comply with the rule.
Under the law, he said, anyone retaining spectrum without permission risks imprisonment for five years or a fine of 10 million baht or both.
For state officials, the penalty is 1-10 years in prison or a fine of 2,000-20,000 baht or both.
Mr Suthipol said the NBTC's telecom committee also risks violation of the law if it ignores the rule.
He insists the telecom committee has the authority to reclaim the 1800-MHz spectrum after concessions end.
The commission is preparing to issue an administrative order to set a one-year transition period, with measures to handle 18 million customers using True Move and Digital Phone services.
Col Settapong Malisuwan, chairman of the NBTC's telecom committee, said the regulator has yet to specify whether the 1800-MHz frequency will be auctioned for 2G or 4G services.
He said 2G mobile service will remain in the market for another 10 years.
According to Col Settapong, the 1800-MHz frequency auction is being postponed to December 2014, as more clarity is needed on spectrum rights.
The NBTC plans to set up a management panel to run the auction for the 1800-MHz bandwidth. The panel will draft auction plans and methods and estimate spectrum values.
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Writer: Komsan Tortermvasana & Saengwit Kewaleewongsatorn