Concern over Thaicom sway mars deal

Concern over Thaicom sway mars deal

Company has yet to resolve hiring deal

Satellite dishes at Thaicom's headquarters in Nonthaburi province. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Satellite dishes at Thaicom's headquarters in Nonthaburi province. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

The board of National Telecom (NT) is reluctant to hire SET-listed Thaicom to operate the control system of Thaicom 4 and 6 satellites under a formal commercial contract following heavy criticism of the move by outsiders who believe the approach would allow Thaicom to have overarching influence on related satellite assets despite its concession having expired.

Thaicom's 30-year satellite-operating concession contract expired on Sept 10, leading to the transfer of the two satellites to the Digital Economy and Society (DES) Ministry.

NT, which was founded through the merger of CAT Telecom and TOT, was then assigned to operate the two satellites further.

However, at the request of NT and the DES Ministry, Thaicom now operates the control system of the two satellites without a formal contract.

A source at the NT board who requested anonymity said NT staff are not keen to operate the control system of the two satellites, although CAT Telecom earlier sent a group of officers to receive training provided by Thaicom.

Although the government allows NT to hire any private firms to operate and manage the two satellites, NT has yet to come up with a resolution on the hiring deal although Thaicom's concession expired more than a month ago.

"It must be accepted that Thaicom staff who have experience with the satellite control system are the most proper personnel to help operate the satellites for NT," the source said. "Controlling satellites needs specific skills and experience."

Insurance terms are another important issue for operating satellite business, the source said. Without skilled personnel, insurance premiums would be high.

At present, Thaicom helps operate the control system of the two satellites on behalf of NT, at the request of NT and the DES Ministry, the source said.

It remains unknown when NT will formally hire Thaicom to operate the control system of the two satellites although Thaicom expressed an intention to help.

"Concerns have been raised by outsiders about NT's possible move to have a formal deal with Thaicom, allowing it to operate the satellites, as they fear that Thaicom would return to have full influence on the whole operation of the related satellite assets although its concession has expired. This, however, is just a hiring contract," the source said.

The source said as King Rama IX in 1991 named the national communication satellite programme "Thaicom", the related assets under the programme must be handled with transparency and take into account the benefits of the state and people.

DES Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn said the hiring deal between NT and a private company is up to NT's board.

He accepted that handling the satellite control needs those with expertise to ensure smooth operation and ward off unpredictable damage.

He said he is aware that NT staff are not keen to handle the satellite control by themselves.

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