NBTC plays with fire by using the foreign dominance card

08 Jul 2014

Fire is a good servant but a bad master. The same can be said of Thailand’s telecom regulator NBTC and the monster it created, the foreign dominance notification. While the target today is some pesky Norwegian investors who refuse to learn their place in Thailand one wonders if they can control the flame and prevent it from burning the industry down.

The FDN started off life under the previous regulator under the guise of a national security catch-all clause from a regime afraid to let go and allow deregulation to take its course. It was pointed out that it was unacceptable to have a constitutionally independent regulator answer to the national security council and thus the national security excuse was removed. The FDN morphed into some sort of fairness for locals fudge; an undead monster without a raison d'etre.

This undead zombie made headlines again when the NBTC secretary-general said in red mist that he would be ordering an investigation into Telenor-owned Dtac’s shareholding structure under the FDN to exclude them from the upcoming 1800-MHz 4G auction.

Telenor’s cardinal sin was exposing an NBTC order to block Facebook. More importantly, that statement directly contradicted statements from the NBTC and the junta that the Facebook outage was due to a network fault, causing them to lose face. Telenor has since apologised.

What was unclear was that once the investigation is started, could the FDN only bar Dtac from the 4G auction? Or would it be forced to continue until the end of the path and lead to Dtac’s operating licence being cancelled?

A legal expert who asked not to be named explained that the FDN was not designed to be used apriori before an event such as the auction; rather it is designed to be an annual compliance checklist.

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