Regulator seeks broader oversight as landscape changes

Regulator seeks broader oversight as landscape changes

The regulator is pushing for the oversight of a broad range of players in the new telecom market, including over-the-top (OTT) services and low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite operators, through its net neutral policy to ensure industry fairness and market competition.

Mr Phoomsisth said a more flexible policy is needed to promote businesses in this complicated market.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) Act defines telecom businesses that fall under the agency's regulation.

"A more flexible policy is needed to promote businesses in this complicated market," said Phoomsisth Mahavessiri, deputy secretary-general of the NBTC.

The move is part of the NBTC's strategy to regulate telecom businesses in the new market, studied by Mr Phoomsisth.

The study is set to be proposed to the NBTC subcommittee responsible for governing OTT businesses, chaired by NBTC commissioner Pirongrong Ramasoota.

The telecom business landscape has been changing with the emergence of data-driven applications.

The industry has seen a drop in usage of fixed telephone landline and voice services, replaced by the use of mobile apps running on the internet.

According to Mr Phoomsisth, high-speed internet providers face a threat from satellite broadband internet providers from overseas.

"This is a challenge for telecom operators because of this new development. Foreign OTT platforms could get a free ride on their infrastructure after the telecom firms made a hefty investment in network installation and paid regulatory fees," he said.

The existing definition of telecom players needs to be adjusted to cover the broader scope of the telecom industry and those with significant market power (SMP), said Mr Phoomsisth.

The NBTC study determined four strategies to address the issue, he said.

The first is frequency management strategy where the spectrum management policy needs to be revised in line with tech development by reducing spectrum use limits, permitting spectrum sharing and supporting space economy promotion.

The second involves economic regulatory strategy, where business fairness must be ensured for all telecom players, including the tax regime. Definitions of telecom and SMP must be revised in line with the new market development.

The third concerns the strategy to boost innovation, said Mr Phoomsisth, adding it is vital to support the study and research for 6G development and the space economy.

The last involves a strategy to support comprehensive access to a variety of telecom services in order to bridge the digital divide by enhancing people's digital skills and literacy.

"Digital platforms, Internet of Things, LEO satellites and 6G pose a challenge to how we can strike a balance between the regulation and promotion of an innovation ecosystem," he said.

Mr Phoomsisth said OTT businesses create challenges and concerns throughout the world regarding how they can be leveraged to make contributions in terms of fee collections and how they protect personal data for users and are responsible for their content. Digital transformation has accelerated faster than expected, he said, taking a toll on telecom operators in terms of revenue and the use of their infrastructure without payment.

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