AIS, True defend payment relaxation request

AIS, True defend payment relaxation request

Suthichai Cheunchoosil (right), AIS senior vice-president for business relations and development, submits bidding documents for the 900MHz auction to NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith in May 2016.
Suthichai Cheunchoosil (right), AIS senior vice-president for business relations and development, submits bidding documents for the 900MHz auction to NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith in May 2016.

Two major mobile operators have defended their requests for a relaxation of mobile licence payments, saying the move is not a trick to default on or reduce the payments.

Advanced Info Service (AIS), the country's largest mobile operator by subscriber numbers, and True Move, the second largest, are required in 2020 to pay the last lots of payments worth altogether 120 billion baht for the 900MHz mobile spectrum licences they won in an auction earlier.

After Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha invoked Section 44 of the interim charter to relax licence payment terms for cash-strapped digital TV operators, the two mobile operators recently sought a similar treatment and asked the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to allow them to pay the last lot in instalments instead of in lump sums.

Their move attracted criticisms, especially from the private think tank Thailand Development Research Institute, which claimed both were making huge profits and perfectly capable of making the lump-sum payments.

AIS and True Move on Friday issued a statement in defence, saying their requests are not an attempt to default on the payments or to pay less since they are willing to pay interest in full for the extended payment periods.  

They reasoned if they were allowed to pay in instalments, they would have more funds available for 5G and internet of things investments, as well as the upcoming frequency auction.    

Weerawat Kiatipongthaworn, business relations chief of Advanced Wireless Network Co of AIS, said the request for five instalments instead of the lump-sum payment and readiness to pay interest meant the country and the public would not lose anything.

Paying in instalments does not equal a default, which would incur a punitive 15% interest rate, he said.

Earlier, AIS sought seven instalments but the NBTC cut them to five and set the interest at the Bank of Thailand's policy rate (1.5%).

Such a relief is sufficient to help telecom operators in the same manner that the government already did to support digital TV operators, Mr Weerawat said.

Sarit Jinasit, state relations chief of True Corp, shared AIS's view and said the assistance would enable the telecom operators to have enough cash to invest in the 5G mobile phone technology and the Internet of Things that would benefit people and national development.

AIS won a 900MHz licence for 75.65 billion baht, while True won another for 76.29 billion baht. Each company has already paid two payments of 8.04 billion baht in 2016 and 4.02 billion baht in 2017.

AIS and True Move each must pay the third term of licence payments at 4.02 billion baht in 2018.

For the last payment due in 2020, AIS must pay 59.5 billion baht and True 60.2 billion baht.


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