NBTC caves in to CAT demand

NBTC caves in to CAT demand

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) will hold 4G bandwidth auctions on Wednesday and Thursday, but already has given CAT telecom a free licence and spectrum to run a service. (File photo by Patipat Janthong)
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) will hold 4G bandwidth auctions on Wednesday and Thursday, but already has given CAT telecom a free licence and spectrum to run a service. (File photo by Patipat Janthong)

The national telecom regulator will allow CAT Telecom to use the unused bandwidth of the 1800-megahertz spectrum to provide its own fourth-generation (4G) service in exchange for dropping its lawsuit to stop Wednesday's spectrum auctions.

The telecom committee of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) is expected to approve the state telecom enterprise's proposal Tuesday to use 20 MHz of bandwidth on the 1800-MHz spectrum, now owned by Total Access Communication Plc (DTAC), an NBTC source said.

However, the regulator will grant CAT only three years to provide 4G service on the spectrum instead of the 10 years it requested, as CAT's concession with DTAC is due to expire in 2018.

"The approval will help CAT to create a new revenue stream," the source said.

CAT has threatened to file a lawsuit against the NBTC over Wednesday's 1800-MHz spectrum auctions for almost a month.

The state telecom last week told the NBTC it wanted to use the unused bandwidth, claiming it still had the right to hold the spectrum until 2025 after the 2G concession with DTAC expired in 2018.

It claims it was awarded the right to hold the entire 75 MHz of bandwidth for the 1800-MHz spectrum until 2025 by the now-defunct National Telecommunications Commission.

"We have neither the authority to allow CAT to provide mobile service on the spectrum after the expiry of the concession nor the power to extend the concession period to DTAC," the source said.

Under the Frequency Allocation Act, the NBTC has the authority to reallocate spectra after the expiry of a concession only through an auction.

Col Sanpachai Huvananda, CAT's acting president, earlier said the state telecom would still take legal action against the NBTC over the auction if the regulator allowed it to use the unused bandwidth only until 2018.

However, the NBTC source said the telecom committee believed CAT's management executives would not take legal action against the regulator since the auctions had been widely acknowledged as a benefit to the government. All ICT-related industries will benefit from 4G service too.

"Opposing the auctions could severely damage the country, the Thai people and the telecommunications industry," the source said, adding that CAT must thoroughly consider the impact before filing a lawsuit.

The source also said the draft auction design for the 1800-MHz spectrum passed the public hearing process and became an official draft in June. This means any opposition or disagreement with the auction design for the spectrum had to be filed in court by September or three months after the official draft was announced.

"Therefore, any moves against the NBTC or the auction design are illegitimate, unreasonable and weak, as both CAT and TOT acknowledged the auction draft five months ago," the source said.

Sungvorn Poontian, president of CAT's labour union, said his union was still waiting for a formal resolution from the company board before taking any action against the NBTC.


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