Board deals with NBTC auction debacle

Board deals with NBTC auction debacle

Satellite dishes at Thaicom's headquarters in Nonthaburi province. Pattarapong Chatpattarasill
Satellite dishes at Thaicom's headquarters in Nonthaburi province. Pattarapong Chatpattarasill

The new board of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) is today expected to come up with a resolution for the country's first auction of satellite orbital slot rights, after a sale was scrapped last year and remains stuck in limbo.

On Aug 18 last year, the NBTC board decided to cancel the auction scheduled for Aug 28 as SET-listed Thaicom, through its wholly owned company TC Space Connect, was the only bidder. Four satellite orbital slot packages were put up for auction.

The new NBTC board, which came into office last month, has yet to determine whether it will hold the auction for only one slot, earlier targeted by Thaicom, or offer various packages.

A source close to the NBTC board who requested anonymity told the Bangkok Post that the board is likely to make a cautious move by directing NBTC management to hold public hearings to seek the proper way forward for the planned auction.

The board is still new to its governing role in the telecom and broadcasting fields, the source noted.

Among the five sitting commiss- ioners, Air Marshal Thanapant Raicharoen is the only one perceived to have a strong command of the satellite field as he is the former deputy secretary-general of the NBTC and the former head of the planned auction of the satellite orbital slots.

The source said the NBTC management earlier suggested the auction should only be for the 119.5 East slot, which was targeted by Thaicom, but AM Thanapant disagreed, saying the bidding should be carried out with all four packages as previously planned.

The source said some orbital slots granted for Thailand's use are at risk of being cancelled this year if the country fails to coordinate with the International Telecommunication Union, a UN specialised agency for information and communication technologies, and other countries that hold the rights on other adjacent slots, in the seven-year deadline.

Some slots held by Thailand have no satellites in orbit.

"Although some slots may fall short of commercial attraction for satellite business, the loss of the orbital slots would make it more difficult for the NBTC to make the new filing in the future while having to queue up for a long time," the source said.

Lining up in the queue would mean Thailand would lose the chance of being given priority in securing the slots, the source said.

One slot can technically be used by several satellites but requires cooperation between satellite operators, the source said.

Digital Economy and Society Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn earlier said one solution for the auction would be to allocate some specific slots to National Telecom, which could use them for security purposes.

He said governments around the world have a policy of keeping some slots for particular purposes while enabling others to be auctioned off.

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