CAT steps up bid to sue regulator

CAT steps up bid to sue regulator

State telecom seeks ruling before auctions

State-owned CAT is threatening to delay next Wednesday's 4G bandwidth auction with lawsuits against the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission. (File photo by Wichan Charoenkiartpakun)
State-owned CAT is threatening to delay next Wednesday's 4G bandwidth auction with lawsuits against the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission. (File photo by Wichan Charoenkiartpakun)

CAT Telecom Plc is seeking legal opinion on a fresh plan to sue the national telecom regulator over next week's 1800-megahertz spectrum auctions.

Acting president Col Sanpachai Huvanandana said the state telecom would seek fairness and justice in court before the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) started Thailand's first fourth-generation (4G) spectrum auctions.

After a closed-door meeting Tuesday with Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, Col Sanpachai told the Bangkok Post he asked Mr Wissanu for suggestions about CAT's plan to step up legal pressure on the NBTC over the auctions.

The spectrum auctions will take place next Wednesday.

Col Sanpachai insisted CAT still had the right to use the 1800-MHz frequency until 2018 and need not return the frequency to the NBTC for auction.

Some 25 MHz of bandwidth on the 1800-MHz spectrum were previously used by True Move and Digital Phone Co under a concession agreement with CAT. Both concessions expired in September 2013.

CAT also awarded 50 MHz of bandwidth on the 1800-MHz spectrum to Total Access Communication Plc to provide 2G mobile service under a concession agreement, which is due to expire in 2018.

"We have been awarded the right by the now-defunct National Spectrum Management Commission to hold the 75 MHz of bandwidth on the 1800-MHz spectrum until 2018," Col Sanpachai said.

"We still have the right to hold the portion of the mobile spectrum after expiry of the concessions."

The NBTC plans to auction two licences for the 1800-MHz spectrum next Wednesday, each containing 15 MHz of bandwidth.

The commission held a mock auction Tuesday for the 1800-MHz spectrum and demonstrated the auction process to more than 100 media representatives.

In 2013, CAT's then-president Kittisak Sriprasert made the company's first legal move by filing a lawsuit with the Central Administrative Court against the NBTC's 1800-MHz spectrum auction plan, claiming it had the right to hold the spectrum until 2018. Col Sanpachai said the 2013 lawsuit was still being considered by the court.

"CAT does not want to stop the auctions, but its board and management executives must take action against the regulator in order to protect themselves against Section 157 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits state officers from actions and inaction that would cause damage to the state," Col Sanpachai said.

He said the state telecom also needed to file a new lawsuit against the NBTC because the latest auction draft of the 1800-MHz auctions differed from the 2013 auction plans.

CAT's labour union also submitted a letter to representatives of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha urging him to consider the matter.

Labour union president Sangvorn Poomtian said the union also urged CAT's board and management to file a lawsuit against the NBTC's 1800-MHz auctions.

"If the CAT board ignores [the request] to take legal action against the regulator, the union will file a criminal case against the directors of the board and management executives by itself," he said.

TOT Plc's labour union Tuesday also submitted a letter to the prime minister's representatives opposing the NBTC's 900-MHz spectrum auctions.


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