NBTC clears legality of True-CAT 3G contracts

NBTC clears legality of True-CAT 3G contracts

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) voted overwhelmingly yesterday in favour of the contentious third-generation (3G) network contracts between True Corporation and CAT Telecom.

Prawit: Cast only dissenting vote

After a half-day meeting, five members of the NBTC's telecom committee voted 4-1 to clear the legality of the True-CAT contracts amid concerns about a possible legal backlash over whether the decision will violate Section 157 of the Criminal Code.

Prawit Leesathapornwongsa was the only commissioner to vote against the contracts.

Mr Prawit said the decision may spur mobile leader Advanced Info Service (AIS) to make a similar pact with concession owner TOT for the right to run mobile services on the 2,300-megahertz frequency for 14 years.

Col Settapong Malisuwan, chairman of the NBTC's telecom committee, said the four members voted in favour of the True-CAT contracts involving the network rental service of BFKT (Thailand), saying they did not fall under Section 4 of Telecom Business Act.

He said BFKT only provides a 3G network rental service to True-CAT, not general services. As a result, BFKT does not fall under the category of a telecom operator and required no licence to operate.

BFKT has rented out the 850-MHz frequency for its 3G service under True-CAT partnership contracts. The NBTC has since last June investigated whether BFKT was violating Sections 7 and 67 of the telecom law by operating the network-rental service under the contracts without an NBTC licence.

Since the rental contract has no need for a NBTC licence under the Section 4, Col Settapong said it was also not in violation of Sections 7 and 67 of the Telecom Business Act.

Section 7 says anyone who intends to run a telecom business must obtain a licence from the NBTC, while Section 67 says those who operate a telecom business without a licence face a penalty.

Takorn Tantasit, the NBTC's secretary-general, admitted that the regulator is at risk of a legal backlash.

Mr Prawit recently threatened to take legal action against the NBTC if it decided in favour of True.

He said consumer protection groups would take the case to the Senate committee before it is passed to the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

Mr Prawit insisted that the telecom committee should pass the case to be filed with the police, saying the telecom panel is not the final decision maker and it is up to the courts to rule on the case.

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