Thailand passes frequency master plan

Don Sambandaraksa
telecomasia.net
Thailand’s telecom regulator has approved the country’s frequency allocation master plan, giving 15 years to incumbent state agencies to operate their telecom frequencies before being refarmed under licence.
 
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission's clearance of the spectrum master plan paves the way for 2.1-GHz 3G auctions later this year.
 
But beyond 3G, the move effectively grants state-owned TOT a 15 year licence for LTE on 2.3-GHz while blocking development of most other new fourth-generation bands for the next 10 to 15 years.
 
The 2010 Frequency Allocation Act empowers the regulator to arbitrarily set a date for spectrum that is not under concession to be returned for re-allocation. The length of time has been the topic of intense lobbying for months, with suggestions ranging from 3-5-7 years for radio, broadcasting and telecommunications spectrum respectively, to 15-15-15.
 
In the end, the board voted 6:4, with one of the eleven commissioners absent, for 5-10-15. That means radio spectrum will be returned to the NBTC for re-allocation in 5 years, broadcasting in 10 and telecommunications spectrum in 15 years.
 
Three of the four dissenting votes were from the broadcasting half with Dr Prawit Leesathapornwongsa the only dissenting voice on the telecom side. The master plan needs to be put to the vote of the full board of both broadcasting and telecommunications.
 
This has come as a surprise to many. Earlier this week, state-owned telco TOT was still lobbying for 15 years instead of 7 in exchange for surrendering part of its 2.3-GHz spectrum. Now, it seems that TOT can have its cake and eat it too.
 
TOT has a contiguous 64-MHz chunk on 2.3-GHz, which is prime LTE spectrum. The rest is fragmented and unlikely to be of much value to the myriad of public service agencies who each have a tiny sliver used for trunked radio. CAT Telecom could conceivably launch LTE but had earlier ruled out wireless broadband services as it still has to operate public service networks on its spectrum.
 

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