Telecom firms fret over cable

Telecom firms fret over cable

The Telecommunications Association of Thailand (TCT) reports 10 telecom companies are concerned about the state's policy to move all existing overhead telecom and broadcasting cables in Bangkok underground within two years, saying it will impose excessive costs on telecom firms.

The TCT is urging the government to subsidise construction costs of the underground pipelines that will hold the cables, while telecom companies are willing to pay a "reasonable" rental fee to the state.

The association said a better plan would be a hybrid model that incorporates both underground pipelines and overhead poles, as some roads could use overhead tubing where all cables would be grouped together into a single tube.

"Even in New York and Tokyo, they have overhead cables in some parts of these cities, but grouped in a proper way," said TCT president Monchai Noosong.

Mr Monchai said the organisation set up a working panel to study all the critical factors of the procedure. It expects to finish the study in four months, then submit it to the government.

The study will cover the problems and effects to related parties, propose guidelines, and research standards and procedures based on international practices.

"The TCT supports the government's goal to beautify the city while developing the digital economy, but we are concerned about impracticalities in the procedure," he said.

On Monday the TCT and 10 telecom companies signed a memorandum of understanding supporting the government's initiative to address existing overhead telecom-broadcast cables.

Mr Monchai said the TCT is concerned telecom companies may have to pay a rental fee for using the pipeline of almost 20,000 baht per kilometre per month, compared to only 200 and 300 baht per month per km for the overhead cement poles of the Metropolitan Electricity Authority (MEA) and the Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA).

Three state enterprises -- MEA, TOT and CAT Telecom -- own underground pipelines for their own operations, renting some space to private companies.

He said TOT owns 2,500km of underground pipeline in Bangkok. Renting from TOT may be an alternative to the government's policy.

The latest move by the TCT came after the National Digital Economy and Society Committee (NDESC), chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Prajin Juntong, approved the proposal by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) to move all the cables underground via its wholly owned subsidiary Krungthep Thanakom, pushing ahead with the project after the cabinet acknowledged it on Jan 15.

Mr Monchai said the TCT does not want the pipeline project run through a concession operation system or profit-based operation.

Some 25 telecom and broadcast companies rent cement poles from MEA and PEA.

On Thursday the BMA held a press conference with the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission updating the public on the project. The BMA said Krungthep Thanakom will start construction of pipelines in May, and expects to complete all 1,260km along roads in Bangkok within two years.

BMA governor Asawin Kwanmuang has not provided details on the budget, saying only telecom and broadcast operators would share the cost. A source in the TCT who requested anonymity said the BMA plans to auction the construction and maintenance contracts.

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