Regulator to award licences in July

News

The National Telecom Commission (NTC) – the national telecom regulator – will allow all new and incumbent telecom operators to request new licences in July.

NTC member Sudharma Yoonaidharma, speaking yesterday at a forum for telecom analysts held at the Stock Exchange of Thailand, said all operators would be able to request licences in the middle of the year.

Earlier the NTC had planned to award licences only to TOT Corp Plc and CAT Telecom Co in this time scale.

The NTC is expected to finish

drafting licensing regulations before July.

Telecom analysts hosted the forum to learn more about the direction the NTC plans to take the industry in its reforms.

Another NTC member on the panel, Prasit Prapinmongkolkarn, said the NTC was also expected to announce regulations concerning an interconnection charge within the next six months, and that it would take about one year to fully implement the charge.

The charge, which is part of the market liberalisation, stipulates that all telecom operators must share call revenues proportionately when calls are routed between networks.

CAT’s mobile-phone concessionaires have waited for the interconnection charge to replace the existing access charge, which requires them to pay TOT a monthly charge for accessing the other networks through TOT’s system.

Market leader Advanced Info Service Plc is exempted from the access charge because it is TOT’s concessionaire.

Sudharma added that the difficulty in implementing the interconnection charge was determining what charge is fair for all parties.

He said that if there is a problem arising from the awarding of new licences before the interconnection charge is completely implemented, telecom operators must join together to solve the problem step by step.

A telecom industry observer said that the granting of licences to other telecom operators was likely to hurt TOT and CAT.

“The private telecom operators already announced that if they get the new licences, they’ll migrate customers from existing concession contracts to new licences in order to avoid paying huge concession fees as they do today to state concession holders like TOT or CAT,” he added.

Many telecom analysts in the forum said that from listening to the NTC, they had the impression that only a few steps had been made towards market reform, mainly the introduction of the interconnection charge.

“The NTC has yet to give clear answers to us, including how many telecom licences it will award and how it will award the 3G [third generation] licence,” said one analyst.

The world’s much-vaunted 3G technology enables handsets to offer smooth broadband cellular services such as video streaming. In some countries, 3G licences have been awarded via auction.

“Another question is whether the NTC will seize back some frequencies of some telecom operators, which currently own many frequencies,” said another analyst.

Published on March 01, 2005

Usanee Mongkolporn

The Nation

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