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Thailand seeks to end mobile concessions by year-end

20 июля 2010

Thailand's economic ministers Monday agreed to push ahead with a plan to end all existing mobile phone concessions by the end of the year to convert them into telecom licenses for second generation services.

However, the government's attempt to ensure fair competition in the industry is not expected to derail a plan by the industry regulator, the National Telecommunications Commission, to hold an auction in September to issue up to three new licenses for the 2.1 gigahertz spectrum, allowing mobile phone operators to offer 3G services that could be upgraded to 3.9G.

"It's two separate issues. I don't think it (the government's move) would affect our (auction) timeline," Commissioner Natee Sukonrat told Dow Jones Newswires.

The economic ministers have agreed to establish a special committee--comprising representatives from the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology and industry experts-- to consider the most practical way to pursue the conversion, and will report to the cabinet within one month, Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij told reporters.

Once the committee completes its proposal, the government will discuss it with the NTC and private operators. In order to help resolve the concession problem, Korn said some details of the 3G licensing regulations may need to be amended.

"Whether the 3G auction would be delayed will rest on a decision by the NTC. In case there is to be a delay, it would only be a matter of months," Korn said.

Currently, mobile phone operators are granted concessions by state-owned firms TOT PCL and CAT Telecom PCL that vary in terms and fees. Under the revised system, mobile phone operators will operate under standard telecom licenses to be issued by the NTC.

"We won't be able to do it (end the concessions) if the private sector fails to agree with the plan," said Korn.

The Thai government has been trying for years to resolve unfair competition in the telecom industry caused by differences in the details of concessions. However, differences in opinion between the government and private operators over the valuation of the concessions have formed a key obstacle in previous attempts to convert the concessions.

Thailand's key mobile phone operators include Advanced Info Service PCL, Total Access Communication Industry PCL, and True Move, a unit of telecom group True Corp. PCL.

3G services allow users to transfer data and download content at substantially faster speeds than second-generation technology, while enabling more sophisticated applications such as video telephony, television on mobile phones and e-commerce transactions. Data transmission under 3.9G would be several times faster than conventional 3G.

Источник: Total Telecom

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