NBTC crackdown on telecoms wrong-headed: AIS exec
The telecom regulator should be supporting cellular operators instead of cracking down on them as it is now, Somchai Lertsutiwong, chief marketing officer of Advanced Info Service (AIS), the industry's largest player, said yesterday.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) is taking the wrong tack by continuing to impose stricter controls on operators. This could eventually boomerang on mobile-phone users, he said.
Recently the watchdog started seriously enforcing three regulations, some issued many years ago, and set a deadline of January 18 for compliance. The rules require operators to sell only refill cards with no expiration dates, to record the identity numbers of buyers of prepaid SIM cards and, in the case of AIS and Total Access Communication (DTAC), to cap their domestic call rate at 99 satang per minute. AIS and DTAC are classified as significant market players.
The watchdog insists it has to enforce its own regulations strictly.
Somchai claimed that the call-rate ceiling limited operators' ability to offer choices of packages to fit the various call patterns of customers.
"But our revenue is 53 satang per minute, which is already lower than the cap of 99 satang per minute," he said.
The revocation of the validity period was unreasonable, as operators have costs to shoulder, Somchai said. Keeping a phone number active costs AIS Bt50 per month for the regulatory number fee and for tracking the user's account. Without a validity period, the NBTC could not manage phone-number reallocation and reuse effectively, he said.
The NBTC has cited the need of subscribers who do not make frequent calls to keep topping up their balances so that their accounts will not be deactivated. However, the NBTC has asked operators to propose new validity periods by February 10. AIS and TrueMove have already submitted their current range of 30-365 days.Somchai said only 5 million of AIS's more than 34 million subscribers were on promotional packages with an average rate of more than 99 satang per minute and might need longer validity periods, and only a handful of them had complained about these two issues.
While operators would like to learn the profiles of their customers, those opting to use prepaid services do not want to disclose their personal information or feel inconvenienced in having to do so. But the regulation is understandable, given the use of mobile phones by elements in the deep South to commit terrorist attacks, he acknowledged.
As the licence holders for the 2.1-gigahertz spectrum are ready to launch their third-generation cellular services aggressively, the NBTC should focus on the key point, which is to support fair competition among them, he said.
AIS subsidiary Advanced Wireless Network (AWN) is targeting 14 million 3G subscribers this year, of whom some might be migrating from AIS, he added.
The NBTC's telecom committee this week granted 26 million mobile-phone numbers to the three 2.1GHz licence holders - 14 million to AWN, 8 million to DTAC Network, and the rest to Real Future of True Corp.