NBTC sub-committee wraps up CAT-True investigation, rules deal illegal

12 Jun 2012

A sub-committee of Thailand’s National Broadcasting & Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has reached a conclusion that the 3G marketing partnership between state-owned CAT Telecom and private sector operator True Corp violates the country’s Frequency Allocation Act. Chair of the sub-committee, Chairuek Ditta-amnart, was quoted by Thai newspaper The Nation as saying that, after reaching the decision on 6 June, ‘the matter is resolved,’ and that ‘more explanation would come from the NBTC’s secretary general,’ adding that the regulator’s board would convene and officially announce the ruling next week. Article 46 (2) of the Frequency Allocation Act prohibits NBTC licence holders such as CAT from allowing other parties to control spectrum management on their behalf, and the sub-committee holds the opinion that the January 2011 CAT-True contracts must be amended in seven areas to comply with the law. The sub-committee has also indicated that BFKT (Thailand), a subsidiary of True’s Real Future holding division contracted to deploy nationwide 3G infrastructure and lease it to CAT, must help CAT comply with the law or else itself be found in breach of Article 67 of the Telecom Business Act for operating a telecommunication business without a licence. CAT’s 800MHz-850MHz spectrum is used for the 3G network, and as part of the partnership contract CAT has committed to use the spectrum only with the equipment leased to it by BFKT for 14 and a half years. The sub-committee says CAT must comply with the frequency law by being able to use its spectrum either with its own network or another party’s infrastructure and should have complete control over its spectrum.

Under the convoluted 3G contracts, CAT in turn wholesales 3G capacity to True’s Real Move unit which effectively acts as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) to provide the ‘True Move H’ HSPA-based service. CAT also launched its own retail HSPA-based service over the BFKT-built network under the ‘My’ banner, although this has now been suspended pending legal decisions. As previously reported by CommsUpdate, Thailand’s ICT minister Anudith Nakornthap has warned True Corp that if it chooses to continue investing in its 3G mobile partnership with CAT Telecom, it must do so at its own risk.

Regarding the seven points to be amended in the contracts, firstly CAT must be able to use the 800MHz frequencies ‘on its own equipment and devices’. Second, CAT must have full management control over its network operation centre. Third, mobile data usage and call detail records must be in CAT’s possession. Fourth, the contracts must indicate clearly that CAT has the authority to manage spectrum. Fifth, the contracts must allow CAT to be the sole decision-maker on frequency planning, network rollout and service operations. Sixth, CAT must have the authority to negotiate with other operators about inbound roaming and interconnection charges. Finally, the contracts must stipulate that CAT is solely responsible for spectrum control.