Thailand’s ICT Ministry has suggested that the National Digital Economy Committee be given responsibility for determining the amount of spectrum and the rules for the upcoming 4G auction.
The suggestion by ICT Minister Pornchai Rujiprapa is yet another move by the military government to take away power from the country’s independent telecoms regulator.
The country’s junta, which took power in May, pushed back the 900MHz and 1.8GHz auctions, scheduled for last year, until this year. It has also called for changes in a number of sections of the frequency act, in what it says is an effort to improve transparency before the auction is held.
But the government seems to be backtracking on the idea of an independent regulator. The national legislative assembly proposed in November that the frequency act be changed to eliminate the regulator, after it reviewed allegations of massive waste and a lack of good government at the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).
Pornchai also has said a portion of spectrum should be reserved for the country’s state-owned operators – CAT and TOT – “to serve public interest and ensure national security”, the Bangkok Post reported. He mentioned public WiFi as well as the 900MHz spectrum, which has been rented out as a concession, which he wants to continue.
The NBTC said in mid-November it plans to move ahead with the 4G auction this year as it sees the additional spectrum as key to boosting operators’ capacity and serving the government’s digital-economy goals.
The country’s three leading mobile operators have been putting pressure on the military government to move ahead with the country’s delayed 4G auction next year.
The ICT Ministry has called for input on spectrum requirements from the defence, education, and science and technology ministries, the Post said. The National Digital Economy Committee will then make the final decision.
The committee plans to create a Digital Economy and Society Ministry by consolidating various state agencies and enterprises.