Asia Business Channel

Thai government wants to help telecom operators finance 5G licenses and technology

Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) is exploring the feasibility of using funds allocated to research and development to make loans to telecom operators. The loans are seen as a financial option that could encourage telecom operators to bid for new spectrum licenses later this year.

Takorn Tantasith, Secretary General of the NBTC said the NBTC’s legal adviser is studying the possibility of making loans from the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Research and Development Fund for the Public Interest, which has almost $1.28 billion USD in available cash.

The NBTC wants to see 5G services launched in Thailand by 2020 and plans to explore all options that will allow it to financially support the telecom operators to apply for their 5G licenses.

Somchai Lertsutiwong, CEO of Advanced Info Service argued in a recent media interview that there is no need for Thailand to rush commercial 5G into service in 2019 year since there are no compelling case-studies which show Thai companies why they should upgrade to 5G. Somchai said that the right time to launch 5G services would be two or three years later.

In December 2018, telecom operator True said that it had no plans to participate in the government’s upcoming 700MHz spectrum auction and that it was waiting for the government to clarity whether the NBTC will be allowed to extend the period of the company’s final up-front installment payment for its 900MHz license.

True Move H Universal Communication (TUC), and Advanced Wireless Network (AWN), in separate 2017 requests to the government, sought ways to allow them to extend the payment period of the final installments of their 900MHz spectrum licenses to nine installments. AWN and TUC are scheduled to pay the hefty final installments of $1.9 billion USD and 1.925 billion USD next year.

In a related matter, the NBTC and Chulalongkorn University jointly kicked off the 5G AI/IOT Innovation Centre at the university’s Engineering Faculty. All five of Thailand’s major telecom operators – Advanced Info Service, Total Access Communication (DTAC), True Corp, CAT Telecom and TOT – are supporting the center’s development.

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