Unsold satellite slots up for grabs again
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Unsold satellite slots up for grabs again

The auction of the 50.5° East, 51°E and 142°E orbital slots, which went unsold at the previous auction, is expected to take place between Aug 23 and Sept 7 this year, according to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

On May 13 the NBTC board approved an amended draft of the new auction conditions for the two unsold packages of the three slots, said Pachara Naripthaphan, executive advisor to the NBTC chairman.

The package of the 50.5°E and 51°E orbital slots, along with the 142°E slot, were not sold at the January 2023 auction.

In 2023, the NBTC held the country's first auction of the use of satellite orbit slots through five packages: 50.5°E and 51°E orbital slots with a starting price of 374 million baht; 78.5°E with a reserve price of 360 million baht; 119.5°E and 120°E with a 397-million-baht reserve price; 126°E with a 8.6-million-baht reserve price; and 142°E with a 189-million-baht reserve price.

Space Tech Innovation, an affiliated firm of Thaicom, obtained the second package for 380 million baht and the third package for 417 million baht. National Telecom won the fourth package for 9.07 million baht.

The NBTC has amended the auction conditions for a year to handle the two unsold packages due to a concern that the country's right to use the slots could be cancelled by the International Telecommunications Union.

The amendment adjusted several conditions, including expanding a timeline that the winning bidders are required to launch satellites (to within five years) after obtaining the licences, a change from within three years. The amendment also reduced the starting bid prices.

However, the regulator is still concerned over possible bid failures as the number of interested bidders might be fewer than the conditions stipulate, said Mr Pachara.

A source at the NBTC who requested anonymity said the new auction condition determines the starting price of the first package of 50.5°E and 51°E at 41 million baht, down from 374 million baht in the previous auction. The price for the 142°E slot has been lowered to 23 million baht, from 189 million baht.

The source said the NBTC realises these unsold slots cover the Caribbean and Middle East, which creates a challenge for developing commercial markets.

The amendment also requires the winning bidders to pay a minimum of 2.5% of total revenue to the state coffers.

The winners who fail to launch satellites and do business within the conditions would face a fine for the amount of original starting prices of the auction in 2023, or 374 million baht for the 50.5°E and 51°E slots, and 189 million baht for the 142°E slots.

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