NBTC completes spectrum roadmap
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has completed its much-awaited telecom spectrum reallocation roadmap, but whether it will be able to implement the plan smoothly remains to be seen.The sub-panel tasked with developing the 2012-2016 roadmap has already presented it to the watchdog's telecom committee.
NBTC commissioner Prasert Silphiphat said the roadmap lays out the direction for the telecom industry following last year's auction of 3G 2.1-gigahertz spectrum slots. He said the NBTC has to follow the roadmap. Should any legal challenge emerge to the spectrum reallocation, the cases would have to be settled by the courts, he said.
As part of the roadmap, the commission's telecom and broadcasting committees will have to discuss what they will do with the 700MHz spectrum, which can be used to provide both telecom and broadcasting services. The spectrum is being used by broadcasters from Channel 3, 5 and 7, as well as MCOT.
The telecom operators have urged the watchdog to finish the roadmap to enable them to get on with drawing up their investment plans.
The roadmap covers the 900megahertz, 1,800MHz, 2,300MHz and eventually the 700MHz spectra. Its development is line with the approaching end of the telecom operators' concessions.
The 1,800MHz concession of TrueMove and Digital Phone Co (DPC) under CAT will end this September, while that of Advanced Info Service under TOT will end in March 2015. The 1,800MHz and 800MHz concession of Total Access Communication under CAT will expire in September 2018.
The subpanel also proposed that the NBTC |auction the 1,800MHz spectrum of TrueMove and DPC before September this year to ensure subscribers are not left in limbo after these concessions end.
However, it remains to be seen if the NBTC spectrum reallocation will go smoothly, due to attempts by spectrum owners to lock up precious spectra for future use.
For example, CAT has sought help from the Information and Communications Technology Ministry to keep the 1,800 MHz spectrum bands it has granted to TrueMove and DPC, in order to continue to provide the service to the two companies' combined 18 million customers after the concession ends. The NBTC intends to take the bands back for reallocation.
The development roadmap is based on the forecast growth of mobile bandwidth demand in Thailand. The NBTC cited an estimate from research house IDC Thailand that the number of subscribers to 3G mobile phone technologies on all platforms here would surge to 30 per cent of total mobile phone users in Thailand in 2016.
As of the third quarter last year, the mobile penetration rate in Thailand stood at 120.83 mobile phone numbers per 100 people, according to the NBTC.
The NBTC's three 3G-2.1GHz licence holders - Advanced Wireless Network, DTAC Network and Real Future - are all expected to launch 3G service within the second quarter.