NBTC okays draft for licensing system

NBTC okays draft for licensing system

New regime will be utilised to operate foreign satellite services in the country

Satellite dishes are positioned behind Thaicom's headquarters in Nonthaburi province. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Satellite dishes are positioned behind Thaicom's headquarters in Nonthaburi province. (Bangkok Post file photo)

The board of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) this week unanimously approved the draft for a new licensing regime to operate foreign satellite services in the country, part of a greater focus on the complicated space business as the global satellite industry develops its standards.

The draft will enter the hearing process next month, with the new licensing system expected to start in early 2024.

NBTC commissioner AM Thanapant Raicharoen said the draft splits the existing sole licensing system into three categories: gateway licensing, landing rights and service. As a result, operators of foreign satellite services in the country will be obliged to apply for three licences in the near future, he said.

Under the existing licensing system, an applicant can apply for only a gateway licence to operate through a foreign satellite. The gateway licensee must be a Thai company or a joint venture with at least 51% owned by a Thai juristic entity.

The amendment of the licensing regime was an agenda item discussed for a year by the NBTC's subcommittee responsible for satellite business.

Under the new licensing regime, the gateway licence enables a company to provide gateway station facilities to the foreign satellites which want to serve the local market.

The landing right licence covers uplink and downlink satellite signals in the country, while the service licence entitles a company to provide commercial services in the local market via a foreign satellite.

Applicants for each of the three licences must be Thai national or a joint venture with a Thai shareholding of at least 51%.

AM Thanapant said the draft is suitable for the industry in the near future, especially in line with the country's space economy development and can accommodate upcoming commercial services through low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites.

LEO satellites operate between 500 and 2,000 kilometres above the Earth's surface, compared to the 36,000 km of geostationary satellites, the traditional type of communications satellite.

The advantage of the lower orbit is lower latency. It will benefit everyone with access to high-speed internet via 5G technology, Internet of Things devices, machine to machine technology, as well as drone technology and applications in areas that require high levels of accuracy, such as remote surgery.

Recently National Telecom (NT), in partnership with LEO satellite company OneWeb, officially sought permission from the NBTC to provide gateway station facilities for operating services, using a foreign satellite.

The proposal includes the requirement for importing equipment related to the station's facilities as well as using certain frequencies for signal uplink and downlink.

The gateway station for OneWeb's LEO satellite connectivity will be established in NT's gateway station in Ubon Ratchathani. The station, which is preparing for expansion, is waiting for NBTC approval of the import of equipment.

The move aims to cash in on ground station facilities in Thailand and regional service deployment. Entry of businesses related to LEO satellite is part of NT's business diversification.

OneWeb will hire NT to develop, equip and operate ground station facilities in NT's satellite station in Ubon Ratchathani for OneWeb's LEO satellite constellation.

The infrastructure and services of the ground station will enable the deployment of commercial broadband services via LEO satellites by OneWeb in Thailand and the region.

AM Thanapant said the NBTC asked for more updated information from NT on this business development. However, NT has yet to submit the required documents to the regulator.

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