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CAT’s action vital for 3G future

The dispute between the National Telecommunications Commission and CAT Telecom over the licensing of third-generation high-speed cellular networks will not be resolved, and the public’s use of 3G frequencies will remain limited, unless CAT withdraws its legal challenge to the NTC’s authority.

Until the case is withdrawn, the public will continue to be unable to benefit from 3G servฌice either on the 2.1gigahertz spectrum to be licensed by the NTC, or on CAT’s own 850megahertz spectrum.

NTC commissioner Sudharma Yoonaidharm said the watchdog would feel more confident about proceeding with 3G licensing if CAT were to drop last September’s challenge to the NTC in the Central Administrative Court.

If the case is not dropped, the NTC will continue to be unsure over its authority to grant permission to CAT to import equipment for its 3GHSPA (highspeed packet access) network.

CAT and True Corp’s subsidiaries Real Move and Real Future signed deals in January for collaboration in the development of 3G850MHz service. Under the deals, CAT has allocated 15MHz of bandwidth in its 850MHz spectrum to be used exclusively with Real Future’s BFKT (Thailand)’s HSPA network for 14 years.

The CAT board is expected to consider this week whether to withdraw its case challengฌing NTC’s licensing authority, after a recent meeting between NTC chairman Prasit Prapinmongkolkarn and CAT chairman Amnuay Premanawong, when they discussed how to accelerate the import of 3GHSPA netฌwork equipment.

Last September, CAT filed a complaint with the court for a temporary injunction against NTC’s auction plan for 3G2.1GHz spectrum licences, arguing that the NTC has no authorฌity to grant such licences because of a lack of a frequencyallocation plan.

CAT also raised the issue of whether, even if NTC had full regulatory power under the 1997 Constitution, such authority would have been scrapped by the 2006 coup. This is because the resulting 2007 Constitution manฌdated the formation of the upcoming National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to replace the NTC.

After CAT’s filing, the Central Administrative Court placed a temporary injunction on the NTC plan to auction 3G licences on the 2.1GHz spectrum.

Sudharma said that although the existing Frequency Allocation Law under the new charter empowered the NTC to act on behalf of the NBTC until it was fully formed, this did not mean it could go ahead and fully proceed with 3G issues, as it still has no spectrumalloฌcation plan.

In a related matter, the NTC will examine the deals between CAT and True Corp group to develop jointly a 3GHSPA service on the 850MHz spectrum.

The investigation will focus on whether the deals comply with the Frequency Allocation Law and its regulations on wholesaleresale, market dominance, infrastructuresharing and related licences.

“If anyone wanted to know the value of the 15MHz bandwidth that CAT had used to proฌvide the 3G wholesale and resale service with True group, they could officially write to ask the NTC, which has a formula for spectrum evaluation,” Sudharma said.

An NTC source said it was estimated to be worth Bt35 billion.

CAT will use BFKT’s HSPA equipment to generate HSPA service. Some scholars have questioned whether CAT took into account the value of its 850MHz spectrum when calฌculating the wholesale fee for its HSPA servฌice.

Source: The Nation

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