Satellite slot licences slated for early 2020
Smooth transfer planned under draft
The telecom regulator plans to begin awarding licences for the use of satellite orbit slots, currently used by satellites Thaicom 4, 5 and 6, by early next year to ensure orderly transfer of concessions that expire in 2021.
Thaicom 4 is operating on an orbital slot at 119.5 East and Thaicom 5 and 6 are at 78.5 East.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) also urged the Digital Economy and Society (DE) Ministry to quickly draft regulations in connection with possessing satellites and control stations by next year to ensure a smooth transition before Thaicom's concessions expire.
Companies awarded the orbital slot licences will be able to begin business only after Thaicom's concessions lapse.
Air Marshal Thanapant Raicharoen, deputy secretary-general of the NBTC, said the plan is in line with the government's push to replace concessions in the satellite business with a licensing regime to promote liberalisation in the industry while maintaining state benefits.
The NBTC has taken over regulating the satellite industry from the DE Ministry.
According to an amended NBTC law, which came into effect last year, the NBTC is the sole agency governing all related satellite businesses in the country, including arranging orbital slots in collaboration with the International Telecommunication Union.
The NBTC has finished three regulation drafts in relation to satellite businesses and will submit them to the NBTC board for approval tomorrow, AM Thanapant said.
The three drafts comprise a master plan for the right of use for satellite orbital slots, rules of licensing for utilising the orbital slots, as well as rules for the use of satellites owned and operated by foreigners.
Should the NBTC's board approve the master plan, the commission will then hold a public hearing on the drafts and the rules are expected to come into force in October.
AM Thanapant said awarding licences for the use of orbital slots 119.5 and 78.5 East will be done through the "beauty contest" method, whereby the qualifications and competitiveness of the bidders will be taken into account in addition to bid prices.
Anant Kaewruamvongs, chief executive of Thaicom, said the company operates the three satellites under a revenue-sharing concession.
Thaicom 4 or iPSTAR is a broadband satellite, while Thaicom 5 and 6 are broadcasting satellites.
Additionally, Thaicom operates Thaicom 7 and 8 under a single licence granted by the NBTC, which requires only a 5.75% licence fee payment.
Thaicom 7 was launched into orbit in 2012 and began operating in 2014. Thaicom 8 was launched into orbit in May 2016.
Previously the government sought to force Thaicom 7 and 8 to return to the old concession system instead of a licensing regime, arguing that the existing 5.75% license fee payment to the NBTC was too low compared with the 20.5% revenue sharing under the concession regime.
Thaicom has negotiated with a government representative at several meetings over two years, but no conclusion has been reached.
Mr Anant said the company is waiting for official details from the government regarding the matter.