Firms leery of draft for satellite slots

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Firms leery of draft for satellite slots

Firms leery of draft for satellite slots

Bidders say plan contains loopholes

Mr Anant says Thaicom has several concerns about the draft proposal. Tawatchai Kemgumnerd

A draft plan for the allocation of rights to use satellite orbital slots has come under fire for several loopholes that some potential bidders said make them reluctant to join the bids.

The plan was presented at last week’s public hearing organised by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

Anant Kaewruamvongs, chief executive of SET-listed satellite service operator Thaicom, said the company has several concerns about the draft. The public hearing of the draft will run until Jan 15 next year.

“It is still premature to decide whether we will participate in the bids,” said Mr Anant. “We have to wait for the official draft plan approved by the regulatory board.”

Citing the draft, he said operators that have secured satellite orbital slots are obliged to pay an annual fee of 4.25% of total revenue to the regulator.

The rate consists of 1.5% for a telecom operating licence fee, 2.5% for a universal service obligation (USO) fee and 0.25% for the right to use orbital slots.

If operators only rent foreign satellites’ capacity to do business using landing rights licences, they pay only an annual licence fee of 7% of revenue, without having to shoulder the auction cost, said Mr Anant.

He said the draft requires the operators to reserve 10% of each satellite’s capacity for state usage. But there is no clear indication as to whether the state will pay for this, said Mr Anant.

“For now, the existing draft’s conditions are not attractive to bidders,” he said.

Anant Kaewruamvongs, chief executive of SET-listed satellite service operator Thaicom.

An executive of another satellite service provider who requested anonymity said the timeline for the auction remains uncertain as the selection of the new NBTC board members is still underway and the current board members are unlikely to approve the draft.

The new NBTC board is expected to be announced by February.

“The existing board may pass the authority to approve the draft to the new board,” the executive said. “It is highly likely the auction will be deferred from March, the initial schedule put forward by the NBTC.”

Air Marshal Thanapant Raicharoen, deputy secretary-general of the NBTC, conceded the draft contains weak points and will be amended to be more attractive to bidders.

AM Thanapant said the requirement to reserve 10% of satellite capacity for state use is likely to be decreased to 5%, with the government likely to pay operators for the capacity.

The draft indicates bidders must have experience in satellite businesses worth 1 billion baht or more, he said.

An industry source who requested anonymity said CAT Telecom, TOT, Thaicom and mu Space are the four potential bidders. The NBTC said four orbital slot packages are available. They consist of 50.5°East and 51°E orbital slots, with the second 78.5°E. The third is 119.5°E and 120°E, with the last for 126°E and 142°E.

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