National Telecom’s spectrum rights expiry threatens mobile traffic qualityLegacy

National Telecom (NT), a state telecom company, faces a potential threat to its spectrums as the rights to three of its spectrum ranges are set to expire in September next year. The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has been urged to devise a transparent plan to reallocate these spectrums, which are currently held by NT. The spectrum ranges in question are 850 megahertz, 2100MHz, and 2300MHz, which NT utilises in partnership with major mobile operators to deliver services.

According to Prawit Leeathapornwongsa, an advisor to NBTC commissioner Pirongrong Ramasoota, if these three spectrum bands are not reallocated correctly, consumers may experience a reduction in the quality of their mobile traffic. The traffic on these bands is projected to conclude post-September 2025.

Prawit expressed concerns about the NBTC’s lack of a coherent plan to address this critical issue. A failure to decide on the reallocation or auctioning of these bands promptly could pose a risk, Prawit stated. He further added that the process for spectrum reallocation or auctioning could take at least nine months, and the NBTC office, along with its board, should seriously consider this matter.

Mobile signal quality is a significant worry, with public criticism and the potential impact on consumers if it worsens. Prawit emphasised that the NBTC must decide how to handle the three spectrum ranges while balancing the financial pressure on operators and the benefits to the public.

Nattapon Nattasomboon, the board chairman of NT, previously stated that the company’s current annual revenue of approximately 40 billion baht (US$ 1.12 billion) through several existing partnership agreements with private operators is expected to disappear after they expire in 2025.

NT is the amalgamation of TOT and CAT Telecom. TOT had previously collaborated with Advanced Info Service on TOT’s 2100MHz service development. Similarly, CAT partnered with True Move H Universal Communication on CAT’s 850MHz service development. The rights to these two spectrum ranges are set to expire in 2025, reported Bangkok Post.

Post-2025, NT will operate via the spectrum range on 700MHz and 26GHz that it secured in a license auction in February 2020. NT has yet to utilise the 700MHz spectrum. The company is currently implementing a turnaround plan focused on reducing redundant investment and expenditure while creating new revenue streams. As part of this plan, the NT board approved a budget cut of 1 billion baht (US$ 58 million) from its 6 billion baht (US$ 169 million) investment budget for 2024, as well as a 6.6 billion baht (US$ 185 million) budget for an early retirement scheme expected to attract 2,800 employees over the next three years.

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Author: Alex Morgan