NACC: True-CAT deal breaches law

NACC: True-CAT deal breaches law

Board to have final say on legal action

A committee set up by the National Anti-Corruption Commission finally announced the much-awaited verdict yesterday on the contentious 3G network deal between True Corp and CAT Telecom, saying the deal was in violation of five telecommunication laws.

After spending almost a year investigating the deal, the anti-graft agency said it breached several parts of five telecom-related laws, including frequency allocation, telecom business, trade competition and public-private joint venture laws.

The ruling was unanimous, said Medhi Krongkaew, an NACC board member and head of the committee investigating the issue.

"We cannot say the deal was legitimate as there are many questions about its legality," said Mr Medhi.

Details of the infractions will be discussed at another meeting on May 8.

Mr Medhi said the committee must then submit its resolution to the NACC board, which will decide whether to petition the courts for further action. The NACC board could also overturn the committee's decision.

The True-CAT deal, made via six contracts, gives True the right to the network previously operated by Hong Kong telecom giant Hutchison (Hutch) in Thailand.

True's acquisition came after CAT abandoned its plan to buy the small Hutch mobile business.

True has continued to aggressively market its 3G high-speed wireless services on the Hutch network in recent months. Its major competitors _ Advanced Info Service (AIS) and Total Access Communication (DTAC) _ are still awaiting a decision on whether there will be a 3G licence auction this year.

An industry source said if the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) fails to hold 3G licensing auctions by early 2013, AIS and DTAC will lag far behind True Move in 3G.

CAT chief executive Kittisak Sripraset said the state enterprise is considering all aspects of its partnership with its concessionaire True after the Information and Communication Technology Minister said earlier the deal was "tainted with irregularities".

He said CAT's biggest concern is the condition in the contract that gave True the exclusive right to use CAT's 850-MHz frequency.

CAT was given 15 days to inform the ICT on how it plans to handle the deal.

CAT was asked to supply facts to relevant state agencies looking into the deal, including the NBTC and the Finance Ministry.

Mr Kittisak said personally he also had doubts whether the BFKT network-rental deal might breach the Telecom Business Act.

CAT promised that cellular equipment owned by BFKT, its original joint venture with Hutch, could only be used with CAT-owned frequencies through the 14-year contract life.

He added another concern was whether the deal violated Section 46 of the Frequency Allocation Act, which prescribes licence-holders must manage spectrum rights on their own. They are also prohibited from allowing other parties to manage the frequency on their behalf.

Mr Kittisak said if the NBTC agreed the deal violated the Telecom Business Act, the regulator could scrap the network-rental condition that gives BFKT the exclusive right to use CAT's 850 MHz frequency.

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