About 30 million mobile subscribers will be able to apply for 10 free gigabytes of data from 8am on Friday as part of public assistance measures during the coronavirus crisis.
To apply, users can press *170*, their 13-digit ID number, the hash sign, then call out. The application period runs until April 30.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) is urging mobile users not to rush to apply, as the application period runs until the end of this month.
Subscribers are advised to apply when the remaining usage quota in their packages is close to ending to optimise their benefit from the 30-day data supplement.
NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said the assistance is part of cooperation between the commission, major mobile operators and fixed broadband service providers.
The NBTC drew out 3 billion baht from the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Research Fund (BTRF) to support the scheme.
Another assistance measure will allow subscribers of fixed internet broadband services to have their packages upgraded with speeds of at least 100 megabits per second, starting when the clock ticks into Friday. This upgrade will be done automatically. Some 1.2 million household subscribers are expected to benefit.
One per user
To use the 10GB of data, eligible applicants' mobile numbers must have been subscribed before March 31 with a valid Thai ID number.
Those with an unlimited data usage plan or a long-term prepaid plan will not be eligible for the assistance.
Subscriptions under corporations cannot be used, since the government is prioritising assistance for individuals. Users can only receive assistance from the scheme once, regardless of how many subscriptions they have.
Mr Takorn said that after mobile users apply, the operators they subscribe to will verify their requests through the NBTC's system before sending text messages to applicants for approval.
"The SMS confirmation may come after 30 minutes or several hours, depending on the number of applications," he said.
With 3 billion baht in assistance given by the NBTC for the 10GB data scheme, mobile operators are estimated to receive 100 baht from the regulator per user.
An 8GB data package for 30 days is sold at an average of 599 baht. The assistance is believed to create a loss for the operators, as users will be discouraged from topping up for at least 30 days.
"This could be unfair to operators, as we doubt they will benefit from this assistance," Mr Takorn said. "Even though they will suffer, they are willing to cooperate with the NBTC in the scheme."
Suthep Temanuwat, head of business relationships and development at Advanced Info Service (AIS), said the company recently boosted network capacity through both 5G and 4G expansions to serve expected increases in data usage demand.
Lih Ren How, chief marketing officer of Total Access Communication (DTAC), said the company is pleased to support the NBTC's efforts to ensure all Thais stay connected at home.
Digital TV fee cut
The NBTC's board has resolved to reduce annual fees collected from digital TV operators for the BTRF, also known as the Universal Service Obligation (USO) fee, to assist operators during this difficult time.
The NBTC board approved the resolution on Wednesday, Mr Takorn said.
Digital TV operators are generally obliged to make an annual payment of USO fees to support public access to TV, radio and telecom services and enhance human resources and technology for the industry.
The new rates, which have been pushed down by more than 50%, are divided into eight tiers, according to the NBTC.
Operators with revenue of up to 5 million baht a year will be subject to a USO fee rate of 0.05%.
A fee of 0.125% will be levied on operators who have 5-100 million baht revenue per year.
The highest rate is set at 1.5% for operators with more than 50 billion baht in revenue.
Mr Takorn said the resolution will be announced in the Royal Gazette before being enforced.
He said he is aware of a decline in ad spending on TV channels every year because of intense competition from over-the-top platforms.