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« เมื่อ: กุมภาพันธ์ 20, 2016, 12:04:44 AM »

Thaicom satellite may be grounded
Ministry asks NBTC to clarify regulations

Published: 18/02/2016 at 03:58 AM
http://m.bangkokpost.com/business/868476

Thaicom Plc's launch of its eighth communications satellite runs the risk of being aborted by the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Ministry's fresh order to scrutinise procedures again.

The ministry recently sent a letter to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) asking the regulator to put the brakes on the launch by the country's sole satellite service provider.

It also sent a letter to the Council of State last December asking for suggestions on the case.

"We want the NBTC to seek new clarity on the legitimacy and definitions of the use of radio frequencies in the satellite business," ICT permanent secretary Songporn Komolsuradej said.

She said it was doubtful whether a satellite could be launched without a spectrum licence, and perhaps the NBTC should allocate the satellite spectrum through auctions as it did for telecoms.

Thaicom may need to enter into a public-private partnership with the ICT Ministry to operate satellite business under the Public-Private Partnership Act, Mrs Songporn said.

The company plans to launch its US$200-million Thaicom 8 satellite into orbit by June, positioned at 78.5 degrees East.

A high-ranking Thaicom executive said the company had already spent more than $200 million on the satellite.

"Almost 20% of Thaicom 8's capacity has been presold abroad," the source said.

"We may seek damages from authorities in the event of a delay caused by a suspension."

Mrs Songporn said National Legislative Assembly members had frequently asked the ministry about the legitimacy of Thaicom's business operation.

Under current regulations, a satellite service provider must apply for a satellite operating licence from the NBTC, while the ICT Ministry works with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to arrange orbital slots in space for a satellite launch.

"The NBTC must provide us [the ICT Ministry] with clear solutions if the governance of the satellite sector falls under the competence of the NBTC," Mrs Songporn said.

She said the regulator must answer clearly whether the satellite business falls under the Telecommunications Business Act or the Frequency Allocation Act.

If it falls under the Telecommunications Business Act, a satellite service provider might be required to enter a public-private partnership with the ICT Ministry. But if it falls under the Frequency Allocation Act, the operator must have a spectrum licence through auctions before launching a satellite.

"We may need to suspend Thaicom's plan to launch its satellite until legal clarity around the issues is settled," Mrs Songporn said.

An NBTC member said the regulator now governed the satellite sector under the Telecommunications Business Act, so there was no requirement for the allocation of spectrum.

The NBTC has no right to auction off orbital slots, as no one can declare sovereignty over orbital space.

"This is different from the mobile spectrum, which can be auctioned off for operating mobile business," the source said.

Satellite operators wanting to launch satellites must reserve orbital space with the ITU, a UN agency that coordinates telecommunications operations and services worldwide.

But the NBTC must hold a licence for uplink and downlink frequencies for satellite services in compliance with Section 45 of the Frequency Allocation Act, which stipulates that spectra be allocated only by auction.

The Thaicom executive insisted the company was granted approval from all related authorities including the NBTC and ICT Ministry.

"We've always complied with all relevant local laws and regulations required by authorities," the source said. "We're determined to proceed with our satellite launch as scheduled without delay."

Thaicom 8 is due to be launched in the first half of this year to serve growing satellite broadcasting demand, both domestic and international.

The satellite is expected to drive 5-10% growth in Thaicom's revenue this year.

The source urged the government to understand a suspension could severely affect the private sector and domestic and foreign consumers.

The launch will greatly benefit the country by generating revenue and enhancing satellite infrastructure development, said the source.
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