Crisis talks with CAT over 1800-MHz auction stall

06 Nov 2015

Last minute crisis talks between the government and state-telco CAT Telecom over the fate of the upcoming 1800-MHz auction have ended with fighting talk from the telecoms regulator.

Deputy Prime Minister Vishnu Krue-ngam called an emergency meeting with CAT Telecom, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission and the ICT Ministry yesterday which ended with nobody seemingly wanting to talk to the press.

Only NBTC telecoms chair Setthapong Malisuwan spoke to reporters, saying that he would not give in to CAT’s blackmail demands and that he would not swap frequency for the smooth passage of the 1800-MHz 4G auction due on the 11th.

CAT Telecom’s labor union has threatened to sue and ask for an injunction unless they get to launch an LTE network on the 20 MHz of seized Dtac spectrum that currently lies unused. The union also threatened to recall 5 MHz of 1800-MHz that was relinquished to make it two 15 MHz licences instead of two 12.5 MHz licences which would have been a waste of 5 MHz of spectrum.

Setthapong said that he did not fear a lawsuit and said that even if he wanted to give CAT the frequency, there was no legal means to do so.

Colonel Setthapong said that CAT’s attitude had improved after the meeting.

Ominously was the lack of any comment from CAT after the meeting.

Elsewhere, fellow state telco TOT has announced its quarterly books and is continuing to hemorrhage money, losing 1.26 billion baht ($35 million) in the first three quarters of 2015.

Announcing the loss, acting CEO Montchai Noosong said that the company was planning to package its assets into an infrastructure fund to raise 10 billion baht by the end of 2016.

Montchai said that the cabinet’s order to take down the power lines of Bangkok and move everything underground would cost TOT about 7 billion baht, but that this would be profitable as TOT and CAT would have exclusive rights to underground fiber, noting that the local Bangkok government does not let the private sector run underground fiber cables. He said that the cable network would bring in about 4-500 million baht a year to TOT.

Montchai said that no decision had been made whether TOT would file for an injunction to halt the 900-MHz auction (on 15 December), saying that he was still collecting information and that much of it was contradictory. TOT’s labour union had earlier sued the past and present telecoms regulator and said it would file for an injunction to halt the auction.

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