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Telcos may be able to use expired spectra longer

THE NATIONAL broadcasting and telecom watchdog's office is considering proposing to its telecom committee a revision of the regulation to permit telecom operators with expired concessions to seek new customers and provide a roaming service until the auctions of the 1800MHz and 900MHz spectra.

The auctions for these two spectra are expected to take place in April 2016.

The regulation revision would be applied to TrueMove and Digital Phone Co (DPC) and Advanced Info Service. TrueMove and Digital Phone's concessions expired in September 2103 and AIS's concession will expire in September 2015.

National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) secretary-general Takorn Tantasit said recently that these operators would be able to seek new customers - on the condition they pass on all profits to state coffers.

The revision aims to maximise their spectra after their concessions expire to generate income for the country.

After TrueMove and DPC's concession expired, the watchdog issued the regulation to permit them to continue providing services for one more year for customers who failed to move to other networks.

But under the regulation, they are forbidden from seeking new customers and required to hurriedly migrate remaining customers to other networks to free up their 1800MHz for the auction.

The NBTC originally planned to auction TrueMove and DPC's 1800MHz bands in August, which will be followed by the auction of AIS's 900MHz in November.

But the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has ordered NBTC to suspend these auctions for one year. As a result, the watchdog has to extend the existing transit period for TrueMove and DPC by another year. Once AIS's concession expires, the NBTC will also have to allow AIS to continue serving customers for another year.

A telecom industry source said that if the regulation revision was made, AIS would be able to roam its customers with the network of DPC, which is an AIS subsidiary. This would subsequently enable AIS to ease congestion in its own networks.

As of the first quarter, AIS had around 26.3 million 3G-2.1GHz users from a total of 42.4 million subscribers. It holds 17.5MHz bandwidth of 900MHz and 15MHz bandwidth of 2.1GHz.

The source added that TrueMove would have no need to hurry to migrate its remaining four million subscribers to other networks, thanks to the extended transit period. TrueMove had around 17 million customers before the concession expiration.

Takorn denied that the planned regulation revision amounted to paving the way for the operators to grab the precious spectra without the need to obtain them via an auction process.

He claimed that the move was in line with the NCPO order that the NBTC suspend the auction plans for one year.

An NBTC source said that the NBTC's telecom committee might consider requiring the auction winners of the 1800MHz and 900MHz spectra to oversee the remaining subscribers of these spectra.

While the NBTC has required TrueMove and DPC to pass profits to state coffers during this transit period, TrueMove reportedly suffered an operating loss of Bt7 billion from the time its concession expired until March.


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