3G licensing another step closer as House OKs frequency law

11 Nov 2010

Thailand’s lower house of parliament, the House of Representatives, yesterday voted 228-2 to approve the Frequency Allocation Bill, which allows the establishment of a new regulator, the National Broadcasting & Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), with the authority to conduct a long-awaited auction of 3G licences to privately owned mobile operators. The Bangkok Post reports that final approval must now be obtained from the Senate, which is due to table the bill for consideration on 15 November, before it can become law. This final stage is likely to be a relative formality, as the version approved yesterday by the lower house had already been extensively rewritten by the Senate. The licensing of 2100MHz UMTS licences in Thailand remains suspended under a court injunction in September which ruled that the existing regulator, the National Telecommunications Commission, lacked the legal authority to issue the frequencies, leaving state-owned TOT as the sole 2100MHz network operator. Under the final version of the Frequency Allocation Bill, the NBTC will have eleven members, selected under a process governed by the Secretariat of the Senate, with representatives of the security and administrative sectors excluded from the line-up of commissioners. Another clause dictates that ‘state telecoms enterprises [including TOT and CAT Telecom] will return the remainder of their concession revenue [including build-transfer-operate concessions] to the state in three years.’