Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thailand - Continuing disputes amongst operators and concession holders over fees and compensation

[bangkok post] Rival mobile phone operators should take legal action to block a contentious deal reached between True Move and its concession holder, state-owned CAT Telecom, says the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI). Advanced Info Service and DTAC should target the acting National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) for failing to properly scrutinise the deal, said Somkiat Tangkitvanich, the TDRI vice-chairman.

He said the operators could claim the regulators were negligent under Section 157 of the Criminal Code, which deals with actions by government officials that cause damage to the state.

The True contract, hastily arranged after the company acquired the small Hutch mobile business in which CAT had been a shareholder, runs for 14 years and removed huge uncertainty about what would happen when True's existing concession with CAT expired in 2013.

Sudharm Yoonaidharm, a member of the acting NBTC, maintains it has no authority to decide on the True-CAT contract, pending a legal interpretation from the Council of State.

The acting regulator has only five members and the formal selection of the 11 members who will sit on the NBTC could take months or even years.

The NBTC law passed last year says that any decision must involve at least six members of the body.

The NBTC tentatively concluded that the True-CAT deal might fall under the 1992 Public-Private Joint Venture Act.

"The contract was considered unusual. It violated the NBTC law 2010 and Section 46 of the Spectrum Allocation Law, which says frequencies could not be transferred to other parties to operate instead," said Dr Somkiat.

AIS and DTAC had the right to petition against the acting NBTC as they stood to lose opportunities if True gained an edge in 3G mobile development, he said.

Col Natee Sukolrat, a member of the acting NBTC, said the True-CAT deal was very complicated _ involving four companies overseen by two new True subsidiaries _ and it was hard to reach a conclusion in a short time.

He said his personal view was using other frequencies to sell or provide service without developing applications would not breach Section 46 as it did not involve any management change.

TDRI urges mobile rivals to sue over True-CAT pact

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