NBTC mulls new hearing on satellite draft

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NBTC mulls new hearing on satellite draft

NBTC mulls new hearing on satellite draft

Move follows revision of critical details

The management of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) plans to ask its board this week to consider allowing another public hearing on the auction draft for the right to use satellite orbital slots, following amendment of several critical details, says Air Marshal Thanapant Raicharoen, deputy secretary-general of the NBTC.

NBTC management expects the auction will be held before Thaicom’s satellite-operating concession contract expires in September this year to propel the space economy in Thailand through the use of orbital slots.

He said the proposed new public hearing is slated for April and lasts 15 days.

AM Thanapant, who is also the head of a panel preparing the auction draft, said the amended draft has been presented to most of the existing commissioners for acknowledgement.

Some amendments were based on concerns raised by corporations in the public hearing held in December 2020, and others by the panel’s consideration, he said.

“The NBTC office hopes the board will approve the amended auction draft following the hearing, leading to an auction being conducted by September,” said AM Thanapant.

An early auction is necessary because preparation and construction of satellites may take 1-2 years, he said.

The auction was originally planned to take place in March 2021, but was postponed to amend the auction draft.

“A late auction of the satellite network filing may put the country at a disadvantage in the space economy if it fails to make use of orbital slots,” said AM Thanapant.

“The period for orbital slots to remain dormant is limited by the International Telecommunication Union.”

Previously, several potential bidders lambasted the original auction draft, saying it contains ambiguities that made them reluctant to participate.

The original draft said operators were obliged to reserve 10% of each satellite’s capacity for state use. There was no clear indication as to whether the state would pay for this.

Operators that secured satellite orbital slots were also 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.

This obligation upset some operators who said if they 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.

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

Bidders are required to place 10% of the reserve price before the auction as a financial guarantee.

The winning bidders are obliged to build satellites to provide services within three years.

The licences for orbital slot usage run for 20 years.

The NBTC said four orbital slot packages are available for auction. 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.

According to the regulator, 728.2 million baht is set as a starting bid for the first package, 366.5 million for the second, 748.6 million for the third and 364.7 million for the fourth.

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