Data sharing stirs the pot
Scheme faces pushback from Big 3
The telecom regulator has begun discussions to amend details of the Telecom Business Act to allow the state to access general data regarding mobile phone usage (not including personal information), but is facing pushback from the major three telecom operators.
The act only allows telecom operators to use general data from their customers for their own purposes.
The move is expected to pave the way for greater benefits from general telecom service data being connected with the National Credit Bureau (NCB) system.
General data constitutes the amount and duration of usage of mobile data and phone calls each day.
It could be used to make some public services more efficient, such as transport design and management, through innovative technology like Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity.
According to a source who requested anonymity in the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), a subcommittee working on amending the terms of the act with regards to telecom usage data had its first meeting last Wednesday.
Any amendments are expected to pass a focus group hearing in the last quarter this year.
"The general data does not include personal information and must not breach the privacy of telecom service users," the source said.
The NBTC also urges the three major mobile operators to support the NCB's plans to collect mobile usage data to meet the World Bank's demand for additional information in evaluating ease of doing business.
The additional data is expected to help raise Thailand's ranking in the World Bank's survey of business-friendly countries.
TELECOMS IN OPPOSITION
The NBTC source said the three major mobile operators have not agreed with the amendments to hand over their usage data to the NCB, saying they would not benefit much and the collection and transfer of the data would be a burdensome cost.
The operators are concerned over expenditures for the member registration fees and fees for specific transaction data they need to acquire from the NCB system.
The NBTC's working group for data exchange between the NCB and mobile operators has been in discussions with the telecoms since January.
Meanwhile, two state enterprises, TOT and CAT Telecom, said they are waiting to hear the Digital Economy and Society Ministry's decision before they consent to transferring their data.
The NBTC source said the operators are also concerned about unpaid debt in the postpaid system as well as violating the contracts on WiFi router installations.
However, these problems are not considered critical issues for the operators.
"The NBTC urges the operators to support the move as it would benefit the overall economy," the source said.
More importantly, if the operators eventually support the government's plan, it may create neutral benefits for them, spurring a discussion of fee categories with related parties, said the source.
On the contrary, if the Finance Ministry issues regulations or a law, operators must comply with it without discussion.
Previously, NCB chief executive Surapol Opasatien said the bureau will gather data from utility service providers, starting with mobile phone usage.
Such data is available from the country's three major mobile phone operators -- Advanced Info Service Plc, True Move H Universal Communication and Total Access Communication.
According to the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business (EODB) project for 2020, the NCB is encouraged to provide additional information from utility companies, retailers and merchants, and trade creditors.
Utility service providers include those engaged in telecommunications, electricity, tap water, gas or similar services.
Retailers and merchants are defined as department stores, furniture shops, car dealers and others, while trade creditors refer to those providing commercial credit to corporate clients and supplier credit.
Thailand ranks 27th out of 190 economies in the 2019 EODB report, falling a notch from 26th last year, but improving its score by 1.06 from 77.39 to 78.45.
The score is an absolute measure of a country's progress towards global best practices.
The NBTC source said the regulator is drafting a series of regulatory conditions for IoT and related devices targeted to come into effect in 2019, to accommodate increasing machine-to-machine connectivity in the near future among every industrial sector.
The move came after the telecom regulator set up a committee to draft a regulatory framework for IoT and connected devices in April last year.
The committee has been discussing five categories surmising the initial regulatory conditions, including numbering and identification; spectrum and technical standards; permission related to radio communications and competition; security and privacy; and data arrangement structure and data interoperability.