The Bangkok Post writes that Thailand’s National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) expects to award licences for UMTS 3G mobile phone services by the second quarter of next year with or without the presence of a new combined broadcasting and telecoms regulator. Delays to the 2100MHz 3G licensing process have been attributed to the failure to establish the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), although the Council of State, the government’s legal advisory body, ruled late last year that the NTC could assign UMTS frequencies in the absence of the new watchdog, which is intended to have responsibility for the assignment of spectrum suitable for broadcasting/multimedia applications. The NTC has scheduled the first public hearings on provisional 3G licensing regulations for 27 August in Bangkok, followed by four more meetings in the provinces in September. The draft rules should be finalised by the end of the year and licence auctions held by the second quarter of 2009. ‘The NTC will also monitor the progress in establishing the NBTC,’ said NTC commissioner Sethaporn Krusripitak, adding that ‘if the body can be set up in the very near future, we will submit the completed draft of the regulations to it.’ The NTC is preparing to allocate a 45MHz block of spectrum in the 2100MHz band (a 2×15MHz block in the 1965MHz-1980MHz and 2155MHz-2170MHz range was previously awarded to state-owned Thai Mobile, which has so far failed to get a 3G service off the ground). The commissioner said the regulator is seeking public comments on the methods for allocating the frequencies, the number of licences to be awarded to operators, and the conditions of licensing.
In other breaking news, the NTC has approved Thai cellco DTAC’s plan to upgrade its existing 800MHz network with 3G W-CDMA/HSDPA technology to provide 3G/3.5G services ahead of UMTS frequency licensing. DTAC intends to compete with rival GSM operator AIS which launched 3G services using the 900MHz band in May.