The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Ministry insists there is no legal requirement for Thaicom Plc's iPSTAR broadband satellite to carry a new licence as suggested by a member of the national telecom regulator.
ICT permanent secretary Chaiyan Peungkiatpairote said the satellite operated by the country's sole private satellite operator is part of the existing concession agreement with the ministry.
The move came after Prawit Leesathapornwongsa of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) raised doubts about whether Thaicom's iPSTAR needs a separate licence to be in compliance with an earlier Supreme Court ruling.
In a case stemming from deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's assets seizure in February 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that iPSTAR could not be considered a back-up satellite for Thaicom 3.
The court ruled the Thaksin cabinet had allowed Thaicom to change the terms of its concession to launch the iPSTAR broadband satellite as its main satellite rather than as a back-up for Thaicom 3 as stipulated in the terms of the concession agreement.
The Council of State also found in 1997 that past concession amendments of telecom operators including those of Thaicom did not comply with the terms of the Public-Private Joint Venture Act of 1992.
Thaicom needs the ICT Ministry to clarify all the unclear details.
Mr Chaiyan pointed out in fairness to Thaicom that iPSTAR's concession took effect before the NBTC was formed.
As well, a change in the concession terms to allow Thaicom to launch iPSTAR as its main satellite instead of as a back-up for Thaicom 3 was legally approved and done with the ICT Ministry's consent, he said.
Thaicom pays more than 500 million baht a year to the ICT Ministry under a revenue-sharing agreement, 40% of which comes solely from iPSTAR operations.
Founded in 1991, Thaicom was granted a 30-year concession from the Transport Ministry under a build-transfer-operate contract.
But the concession, which is due to expire in 2021, now belongs to the ICT Ministry.
The NBTC's telecom committee will discuss the issue tomorrow.
Jesada Sivaraks, secretary to the NBTC's vice-chairman, admitted the committee will likely agree with the ICT Ministry.
About the author
- Writer: Komsan Tortermvasana
Position: Senior Business Reporter