NBTC mulls regulatory revamp

NBTC mulls regulatory revamp

File photo
File photo

The telecom regulator is floating the idea of revamping the regulatory framework governing the provisions of telecom and broadcasting services in Thailand with a unified licensing regime.

The approach is needed to recognise the changes brought on by convergence, as well as to provide a flexible regulatory regime to embrace technological and market developments, said a commissioner.

"Without implementing this proposed revamp by 2018, ambiguity in defining innovation types of services will arise, making it more difficult for policymakers to govern," said Prawit Leesatapornwongsa, a commissioner of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

He said a clear road map for spectrum auctions should also be quickly implemented or it would discourage investments in digital infrastructure in the country, impeding the development of the government's Thailand 4.0 scheme.

Mr Prawit said the telecom sector is governed under the 2001 Telecom Business Act, while the broadcasting sector is under the 2007 Broadcasting Business Act.

"Having separate, inflexible laws doesn't match with the era of technological convergence," he said.

For instance, a service application for broadcasting via the wireless broadband network of telecom operators is proving difficult to determine which laws govern the service, said Mr Prawit.

In addition, telecom operators providing Internet Protocol TV are required to have an ISP licence from the NBTC's telecom committee plus another ISP licence from its broadcasting committee.

"This licensing practice causes operators to pay double licensing fees, with these costs passed on to consumers," Mr Prawit said.

He said a new sublaw should be introduced to combine the Telecom Business and Broadcasting Business acts together to eliminate any ambiguity in doing business and to support service innovation in the future.

"It's time to revamp the two acts because the amended NBTC draft bill is expected to take effect in May," Mr Prawit said.

The amended NBTC draft bill passed its first reading by the National Legislative Assembly in 2016. A second and final reading is expected by March 27.

Once the draft bill passes its final reading by the assembly, it must be endorsed and published in the Royal Gazette before taking effect in May.

Under the conditions of the amended NBTC draft bill, the number of NBTC commissioners will be cut from 11 to seven, selected from seven sectors: telecommunications, radio broadcasting, TV broadcasting, legal, economics, engineering and consumer protection.

The seven commissioners will be responsible for governing both telecom and broadcasting businesses, overseeing spectrum auctions and managing satellite spectrum.

The current NBTC law entails 11 commissioners divided into two committees -- telecom and broadcasting -- each with five commissioners, and the NBTC chairman sitting on both committees.

Mr Prawit also expressed his concern about the capability of the new NBTC commissioners in implementing proper measures to govern the increasingly sophisticated digital services during the convergence era.

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