The formation of a FCC-style unified regulator is closer to becoming a reality in Thailand, possibly paving a smoother path to the country’s long-delayed 3G auctions.
After years of delays, a draft bill creating the 11-member National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission has been unveiled.
The bill, drawn up by a House of Representatives committee, is reportedly due to go before the lower house when it reconvenes on January 21, and could be endorsed by the Senate as early as June.
The powerful NBTC will assume complete jurisdiction over the allocation of all communications, TV and radio spectrum, including 2100 MHz spectrum for 3G.
Thailand plans to auction four 3G licenses. Incumbents AIS, DTAC and True Move are separately gunning for 3G licenses, meaning a fourth license will be available for a new greenfield player.
But the issuance of 3G licenses has been bogged down in bureaucratic red tape. In the absence of the NBTC, telecoms regulator the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has assumed authority for drafting the country’s 3G guidelines.
However, Thailand’s Council of State is reviewing whether the NTC is fully empowered to issue 3G licenses given it will soon be replaced by a unified regulator.
The NTC was reportedly hoping to auction Thailand’s licenses in December, but the NTC is awaiting government ratification of its new commissioners, pushing the auction timetable out into 2010.
In a new report, financial-services firm CLSA says it does not expect Thailand’s 3G licenses to be issued now until 4Q10.
Meanwhile, third-ranked cellco True Move is seeking NTC approval to expand its trial 3G service at 850 MHz.