NBTC approves amended True-CAT 3G contracts, could lead to copycat deals

8 Apr 2013

The telecoms committee of Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has voted 4-1 in favour of the contentious 3G 850MHz network contracts between True Corp and CAT Telecom, reports the Bangkok Post. Prawit Leesathapornwongsa, the only commissioner to vote against the amended contracts, said that the decision to clear the legality of the private-public wholesale/resale partnership could prompt rival cellco Advanced Info Service (AIS) to form a similar pact with state-run concession owner TOT for the right to operate mobile services on the 2300MHz band for 14 years. Settapong Malisuwan, chairman of the telecoms committee, explained the decision by saying that the True-CAT contracts – involving the network rental service of BFKT (Thailand) – did not fall under Section 4 of the Telecommunications Business Act, adding that BFKT only provides a 3G network rental service to True-CAT, not general services, and as a result BFKT does not fall under the category of a telecoms operator and requires no licence to operate. The NBTC began an investigation in June 2012 into whether BFKT was violating Sections 7 and 67 of the telecoms law by operating the network rental service under the contracts without an NBTC licence; Section 7 says anyone who intends to run a telecom business must obtain a licence from the NBTC, while Section 67 says those who operate a telecom business without a licence face penalties. Mr Prawit has said that consumer protection groups would take the case to the Senate committee before it is passed to the National Anti-Corruption Commission, and has insisted that the telecoms committee should have passed the case to be filed with the police, adding that the panel should not be the final decision maker and that it is instead a matter for the courts.