NBTC, DE Ministry focus on critical trio
EEC, 5G and use cases are seen as core drivers down the road
The telecom regulator plans to continue pushing ahead in cooperation with the new government's Digital Economy and Society (DE) Ministry on three critical projects: fifth-generation wireless broadband adoption, putting the overhead telecom and broadcasting cables underground, and infrastructure sharing between state telecom enterprises to ease 5G adoption.
The auctions for 5G spectrum, use-case development and Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) projects are seen as core drivers of the overall economy in the years ahead.
Revenue streams from tourism have declined due to the drop in tourist numbers and a stronger baht, according to a source on the board of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).
The source said the board and management will have a meeting with the new DE minister soon and discuss cooperation in the three areas.
"The regulatory method for the telecom business has changed as 70% of the regulatory authority for telecom businesses is under the NBTC's jurisdiction with the remaining 30% under the DE Ministry," the source said.
"There is no longer a honeymoon period or studying terms for the new government, as it has to urgently move on the projects in the government's pipeline, especially the 5G roadmap that it wants to adopt by 2020 as with the original plan."
The DE Ministry is responsible for governing digital economy development, the policymaking process and collaborating with other agencies to push government policy for ICT and regulating state enterprises such as TOT, CAT Telecom and Thailand Post.
More importantly, the source said the NBTC has already taken over regulatory control of the satellite business from the DE Ministry, following the amended NBTC law put into effect in recent months.
The existing NBTC law makes the regulator the sole agency governing all related satellite businesses, including the arrangement of orbital slots with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
For the first time the satellite business will be governed by more practical regulations, including clarity of the operating fee structure and methods of doing business both in space and on the ground.
In the past, the DE Ministry was responsible for working with the ITU for orbital slot arrangements. The NBTC was responsible for awarding operating licences.
Now satellite service providers have to contact the NBTC to arrange with the ITU to make orbital slots available and submit requests for sky operating licences and landing rights licences.
The new law gives the NBTC the authority to contact the ITU to reserve orbital slots.
"There is no further honeymoon period for the new government for action," the source said.
5G AND EEC
The source on the NBTC board said the regulator would ask the DE Ministry to facilitate infrastructure sharing for 5G use-case development through assets belonging to TOT and CAT nationwide.
Currently, TOT and CAT Telecom hold many assets that they could rent to mobile operators to expand 5G businesses and use-case development or trials in some specific areas.
TOT and CAT Telecom's assets include telecom transmissions, nodes and towers, more than 170,000 cement poles, and many buildings or branch offices nationwide.
"Adoption of 5G infrastructure requires huge investment, and the business use cases are still immature," the source said. "As the regulator, we want to ease the burden for operators and promote infrastructure investment for the benefit of the country."
The source said infrastructure sharing will help 5G use-case development and trials because 5G would be not for the mass market but for specific vertical industries initially, especially in the EEC.
NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said the commission plans to auction 5G licences through new categories of spectrum ranges and areas of spectrum utilisation, called general and specific areas, as another drive to promote 5G adoption.
Utilisation of 5G spectrum ranges in general and specific areas differ in requirements in terms of conditions and fee structures.
For the next auction of 5G spectrum ranges, the NBTC will auction 190MHz of bandwidth on the 2600MHz range by early 2020. The 2600MHz band is held by state-owned broadcaster MCOT under a concession expiring in 2022.
MCOT is in the process of returning unused bandwidth to the NBTC in exchange for compensation.
Apart from 2600MHz, the NBTC will recall several ranges for auction in the future, including 1500MHz, 3400-3800MHz, 26GHz and 28GHz.
The 2600MHz band is to be auctioned together with the 26-28GHz range, referred to as a multi-band auction.
For 1500MHz, the band now has 35MHz of bandwidth used by TOT for signal transmissions for rural telephones and 56MHz used by Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production and Chevron Offshore for surveying and petroleum production.
Part of the 3500-3800MHz range is used by satellite business provider Thaicom, and the NBTC is considering recalling a combined 360MHz from the range.
Another possibility is recalling 6GHz of bandwidth on the 26-28GHz range now partly used by Thaicom.