European Association for Business and Commerce

The Digital Economy / ICT Working Group conducted a ‘Spectrum Workshop’ on 18 January which covered ways to ensure that spectrum would be available at a reasonable price and in sufficient quantities to ensure affordable mobile broadband. In photo left to right, Mr. Bunyati Kirdniyom, Vriens Partners, Magne Pettersen, Telenor, Mr. Allan T. Rasmussen,  Yozzo, Mr. Bob Fox, Working Group Chair Digital Economy / iCT, Dr. Supareauk Charlie Choncham, Danish Chamber, Mr. Erlend Fanebust, Telenor, Mr. Sanit Kashemsanta Na Ayudhaya, NTT, Mr. Steven Soon, Telenor.

This followed a dialogue with NBTC on 8 December, and participation in the open house or public consultation on 18 December.  The NBTC board will change in Q1 2018 and a new chairman elected/appointed. A new NBTC Secretary-General should follow.
Key messages:
1. Affordable mobile broadband underpins the Digital Economy.  

2. Necessary reforms to the telecoms industry/SOE (State Owned Enterprise) evolution (TOT and CAT); the industry is not efficiently structured (eg no organised wholesale market) and SOEs as currently operating, have a less than ideal impact on the industry as a whole. We will hit a wall on these issues leading up to 5G if this issue is not resolved. 

3. Starting price is too high; a fresh economic assessment is needed rather than using last bid from previous auction. This may need a change to law or regulation. 

4. Scarcity slows down access speeds and is an artificial price inflator. A road map which addresses scarcity is needed (NBTC plans to issue a road map in January 2018, but the draft shown so far has only re-farmed spectrum for 2018, not new spectrum). Net increase to 2025 must be 300 MHz just to maintain gap with EU, and 900 MHz to close the gap; clear risk of Thailand falling further behind Europe and other ASEAN.. Improving 4G speeds and introducing 5G will not be possible unless more spectrum is released at lower prices. Digital Thailand and Thailand 4.0 at risk. NBTC has announced sub division of 1800 MHz into 9 slots rather than 3. This will help with participation, but does not address price or spectrum scarcity. 

5. Abolish N-1 rule (another artificial price inflator) where one less licence is offered than the number of bidders. 

6. For MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operators), recommended is abolishing individual licences;  use class licences (as Europe did from 2009) and many countries do now.  Standard benchmarked access offers should be workable.