Sources at Thailand’s National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) have reported an increase in interest in the country’s telecoms market from overseas operators. Amongst the most recent to approach the regulator with inquiries include the UK’s BT Group, Vodafone and O2, as well as Japan’s NTT DoCoMo. In addition, China Telecom and ‘major’ operators based in Hong Kong and Sweden are also reported to have contacted the NTC for details of investment guidelines and regulations. The sources identified further interest coming from telcos in Taiwan, Singapore and Australia.
The Thai communications market is undergoing a gradual process of liberalisation. Last month, the regulator opened up three key internet markets: VoIP telephony, domestic internet exchange gateways and the international internet gateway market. The NTC’s remit is to take control of the telecoms industry out of the hands of the government and introduce new legislation to prepare the fixed line sector for competition by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) deadline of end-2006. In the1990s the fixed line market was reshaped by the introduction of build-transfer-operate (BTO) agreements. Under the terms of the BTO contracts private operators have been allowed to enter the market by agreeing to finance and construct a network of set capacity, before transferring ownership of the infrastructure to one of the two state-run incumbents, TOT and CAT. From then on the private company operates services over the network for a predetermined period, sharing its revenues with the state telco.