NBTC greenlights Wi-Fi on Thai Airways flights

Corporate August 29, 2013 00:00

By Usanee Mongkolporn
The Nation

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Watchdog yet to decide on mobile voice service

Soon passengers of Thai Airways International will be able to surf the Internet on board, after a working panel of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission concluded that the carrier could offer in-flight Wi-Fi.
The future of in-flight voice service, however, is still up in the air.
Jesada Sivarak, secretary to NBTC vice chairman Settapong Malisuwan, said yesterday that the panel had concluded that THAI could provide data services via Wi-Fi technology. The watchdog has already advised the airline to apply for a licence to provide the service.
“Now THAI is in the process of applying for a service-provider licence so it can offer Wi-Fi on its planes,” he said.
However, the NBTC has yet to finalise whether the carrier can provide on-board mobile voice services, he added. THAI had asked the regulator permission to offer both mobile and Internet services to its passengers.
Thai law obliges those wanting to use spectra to provide telecommunication services to bid for those spectra, and they have to provide the service on their own. 
But the providers of this kind of in-flight service are foreign companies that work on a revenue-sharing basis with the carrier. Foreign firms cannot bid for Thailand’s spectra. If Thai Airways wants to provide on-board telecom service, it has to be subject to the Frequency Allocation Law regardless of where it flies, as its aircraft are legally considered Thai territory under the Civil Code.
Meanwhile, the NBTC is drafting satellite-licensing regulations, which are expected to be completed this year. There will be one type of licence for a satellite service and another for an earth-station uplink-downlink service.
The satellite licences will be valid for 20 years and oblige the holders to launch their satellites within seven years after obtaining the licence. 
There will also be separate licences for those planning to use Thailand’s own orbital slots and those aiming to use the slots of foreign countries. The operators of these two licence types do not need to bid for spectra to operate the satellites.
Currently, the Information and Communications Technology Ministry has reserved four orbital slots, 78.5 degrees east latitude, 50.5 degrees east, 119.5 east and 120 east, all being used by satellite operator Thaicom.
The earth-station licence has a 15-year term, and the applicants have to bid for the spectra to offer the services. But the NBTC’s working group on this regulation has yet to conclude the auction method.
The NBTC awarded a satellite licence to Thaicom last year to operate its planned Thaicom 7 satellite. 
Jesada said Thaicom 7 would have to comply with the new licensing regulations when they come into force.

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