Thai junta depowers telecom watchdog

Don Sambandaraksa
telecomasia.net

Thailand’s cabinet of ministers has approved a new draft frequency act that strips the autonomy of regulator NBTC and puts the new frequency watchdog under direct policy control of the Digital Economy Commission chaired by junta leader General Prayuth Chanocha.

The draft will now go to the junta-appointed national legislative assembly to be passed into law.

The Digitial Economy Commission will set overall spectrum policy and will decide which bands will be first allocated to national security.

The neutered NBTC will only be responsible for commercial spectrum use. Allocation will remain via auction.

The country’s frequency map will have to be approved by the Digital Economy Commission and many day to day operations, such as decisions on numbering, will have to be in accordance to policy set by commission.

The new frequency act also puts the regulator under much tighter budgetary control with income now diverted to the digital economy fund also chaired by General Prayuth. Expenditure now has to be approved by parliament in the annual budget.

The current universal service obligation fund will be transferred into the digital economy fund.

The draft frequency act merges the telecoms and broadcasting boards into one, but retains the number and composition of the boards (6+6+1, selected by senate according to speciality).

Earlier the NBTC has announced a crackdown on open WiFi access points and will force pre-paid SIM registration for national security and for protection of the monarchy.

One day before the new draft NBTC act was approved the regulator also announced 4G spectrum refarming on 900 and 1800 in July this year and that it has written to the junta for the go-ahead.

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