Thailand's looming spectrum crunch: part 1

Don Sambandaraksa
telecomasia.net
Thailand is facing a spectrum crunch unless 900-MHz and 1800-MHz is efficiently refarmed in the next few years. The 700-MHz, 2.3-GHz and 2.5/2.6 bands meanwhile remain elusive, mostly locked up in broadcasting concessions.
 
At the same time, the government seems intent on securing spectrum for its state enterprises rather than enabling refarming, and the lack of spectrum harmonization with neighbors threatens to leave Thailand using an overpriced, underdeveloped ecosystem.
 
These were some of the key problems discussed at the Telecom Journal Thailand Spectrum re-farming seminar that was hosted in cooperation with the Telecommunications Association of Thailand (TCT).
 
TCT president Vichai Bencharongkul, summed up, “We all underestimated demand in the [2012] 3G auction. The NBTC, ICT Ministry and operators must learn from this mistake and we need to refarm spectrum more efficiently going forward.”
 
Vichai said that there was a need to find a model to compensate incumbents to urge them to give up spectrum for refarming and called for a fair and level playing field in the industry.
 
“Are we doing to live like the rest of the world? Or are we going to continue to do things in a Thai way?” he asked. The rhetorical question referred to the spectrum allocation mess in which the combination of legacy concessions and a silo between broadcasting and telecoms meant that Thailand would be lagging most of its neighbors in making spectrum available for mobile broadband in a few years’ time.
 
Delivering the opening keynote, ICT Minister Anudith Nakornthap spoke of the importance of refarming to maximize economic value. He noted that in most countries 700 was now used for mobile broadband and 470 for broadcast but that the issue was still being negotiated in the Kingdom.
 
Anudith was clearly fired up as he said that Thailand’s frequency laws would need to be amended to allow for more continuity. He blasted the NBTC Act for being inflexible, and argued that it risks rendering hundreds of billions of baht (low tens of billions of dollars) of investment into scrap metal.
 

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