Dtac can’t offer voice services on its new 2.3-GHz network: NBTC

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Thailand’s NBTC has stated that Dtac – the winner of state telco TOT’s 2.3-GHz  TDD-LTE beauty contest to co-invest in building the network – cannot offer voice services or combined voice-data packages on that network because the original license awarded to TOT is only for data and fixed wireless broadband.

NBTC Secretary-General Takorn Tantasit told reporters that the license could be revoked if Dtac and TOT did not comply.

Takorn also said that he has not yet seen a copy of the contract between TOT and Dtac. The secretary-general said that if he does not get a copy by the end of this month, he will write to TOT asking for a copy.

Dtac’s 850- and 1800-MHz concessions end in 2018, leaving it with only 10 MHz on the 2.1 GHz band going forward, in addition to the 60 MHz on 2.3 GHz it had just won.

This latest twist only adds more confusion to what is already a confusing mess regarding the legality of the TOT/Dtac deal and what rules and laws it is and isn’t expected to comply with. Indeed, numerous reports quoted Takorn telling TOT CEO Montchai Noosong that TOT not only did not need to follow laws, but could also make use of Article 44 of the interim constitution – the absolute power clause – to bypass red tape if necessary and get the project launched for the sake of TOT’s survival. Montchai denies having ever even heard of that offer.

Takorn’s reported offer came after the NBTC board rejected TOT’s business plan and ordered the spectrum recalled – just one of many NBTC board resolutions that Takorn has ignored.

For its part, TOT has said that it does not need to ask the NBTC for permission and only needed to inform TOT of a new MVNO that is operating on its network. The state telco has said it only needs approval from the State Enterprise Policy Board and the Attorney-General for the project. TOT also said it would not seek cabinet approval for the project despite public-private partnership laws requiring that projects over 1 billion baht be approved by the cabinet.

So, given all that’s transpired to date, it’s hard to understand why Takorn would bother making a point about adhering to license requirements regarding voice services – or why TOT and Dtac should bother taking that point seriously.

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