Thailand has finally ratified the creation of a new telecoms regulator, but its 3G auction isn’t going anywhere fast, and this new regulator only raises more uncertainty for private operators.
In December 2010, the Frequency Allocation Bill became law, allowing for the establishment of the country’s unified regulator, the National Broadcasting and Telecoms Commission (NBTC).
Under the act, the NBTC has a dual purpose: to act in the “public interest”, but also to comply with “government policy”. The NBTC is expected to be more focused on politics, and less focused on developing a level playing ground between the private and government-backed operators, TOT and CAT Telecom, than its predecessor, the National Telecommunications Commission.
Meanwhile, 3G in Thailand continues to go nowhere fast. Private operators, including AIS and DTAC, continue to scramble for 3G alternatives which are nothing more than stop-gap measures until 2100MHz spectrum becomes available.
Importantly, the NBTC has the power to issue spectrum via auction, including the much sought-after 2100MHz for 3G.
However, we don’t expect the 3G situation to be resolved for a couple of years since the appointment of the NBTC’s influential 11 commissioners is likely to be controversial and take the full mandated seven months to resolve, with the final decision likely to be made by cabinet.
After that, the NBTC has one year to draw up a frequency master-plan. Ovum does not expect the auction to take place until some time in 2H12 or possibly even in 2013. Thailand’s 3G auction delay is leaving it lagging behind the rest of Asia.