Anudith to hold talks with NBTC on three key issues
Information and Communication Technology Minister Anudith Nakornthap and the National Broadcasting and Telecommuni-cations Commission (NBTC) will discuss three key industrial issues on August 27 - collaboration; switching the country's analog TV broadcasting system to the terrestrial digital, and the ministry's request for a possible waiver of the Universal Service Obligation (USO) tax on Thaicom's revenue from overseas markets.NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasit said that the other topic is if TOT and CAT Telecom can keep their concessioned spectra after the concessions end, instead of transferring them to the watchdog for reallocation.
He added that ICT deputy permanent secretary Chaiyan Puengkiatpairote had sought the watchdog office's opinion last week if it could waive the annual USO tax for Thaicom on the part of the revenue gained from overseas markets. The ministry views that most of Thaicom's revenue is from overseas markets, which should not be subjected to the USO tax. The watchdog's office last week responded that the NBTC could not grant such a waiver, adding that the USO tax is even lower than the annual concession fee rate Thaicom has paid to the ministry.
The NBTC's type-3 licence fee and the USO tax cost licence holders 2 per cent and 3.75 per cent, respectively, of their gross annual revenue. The USO fund is for the NBTC to develop telecom services in remote areas. Thaicom, which operates under the ICT Ministry's concession, is the satellite business flagship of InTouch, formerly known as Shin Corp. Its concession-fee rate is 17.5 per cent of revenue from 2008 until the rate increases to 20.5 per cent in 2012. In 2017, the rate will rise to 22.5 per cent until 2021.
Its planned Thaicom 7 satellite will be its first satellite to operate under the NBTC licence. The watchdog in June awarded the network provider licence under type-3 licence to Thaicom to operate the Thaicom 7 satellite scheduled to be launched in 2014 in the 120 degrees east longitude orbital slot. The licence will have a 20-year term and the Thaicom 7 satellite has to start providing service within seven years of obtaining the licence. The type-3 licence is for a company with its own large network.
Anudith and the NBTC's telecom committee will also discuss if TOT and CAT can keep their spectra, which they have granted to the private concession holders, after their concessions end. As per the NBTC spectrum management master plan, all state agencies have to transfer such spectra after the concessions end to the NBTC for reallocation. However, both state telecom agencies view that these spectra should be returned to them from the concession holders, instead of being handed over to the watchdog.
The ICT Ministry will consult the Council of State to seek a clear legal answer on the issue. Recently, Anudith said that both state-owned agencies should be given a chance to survive in the liberalised market.
The cellular concessions of TrueMove and Digital Phone Co under CAT will end in September next year, followed by that of Advanced Info Service under TOT in 2015. The concession of Total Access Communication under CAT will be the last to end in 2018. Both state agencies want to keep these spectra to generate their own new revenue sources.
Two years ago, NBTC's predecessor, the National Telecommuni-cations Commission, consulted the Council of State on the issue but the state agency declined to give its opinion.
Takorn said that Anudith would also discuss with the NBTC's broadcasting committee the plan to jointly switch the country's broadcasting TV analog system to the terrestrial digital one in a way that would impose the least cost on the people. The Cabinet has assigned the ministry to coordinate with the NBTC on the so-called digital switchover plan.
TV viewers will have to acquire a set-top box to receive digital TV signal. The broadcasting committee has mulled subsidising the set-top box cost for some groups of TV viewers by using the NBTC's fund for promoting R&D in telecom and broadcasting development for public benefit.