Thailand’s NBTC looks for ways to hobble True-DTAC merger

nbtc merger dtac true
Image by ilixe48 | Bigstockphoto

CommsUpdate: Three of the five board members of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) are looking to apply tough remedies to the controversial merger deal between True Corporation and Total Access Communication (DTAC).

According to the Bangkok Post, which cites an unnamed industry source, the board will begin by establishing whether or not it has the authority to approve or reject the merger outright.

If the watchdog is unable to block the merger, the NBTC will seek to impose tougher measures on the tie-up, with some commissioners believing that the proposed draft measures are ‘too weak’.

NBTC proposes three-year ban to start

As per the report, the draft prohibits the merger of True Move H Universal Communication (TUC) and dtac TriNet (DTN) – the mobile units of the respective companies – for a period of three years.

The two units will also face a three-year ban on spectrum sharing, and will be forced to allocate 20% of their network capacities for MVNO use.

However, the tougher measures are likely to see consolidation/spectrum sharing banned indefinitely.

Merger worries

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, True Corp and DTAC – Thailand’s second and third-largest mobile operators, respectively – agreed in November 2021 to merge their operations as they seek to topple Advanced Info Service (AIS) and create a new market leader. The deal is worth an estimated $8.6 billion.

True and DTAC submitted the notification of their planned merger to the NBTC on 25 January 2022, with the deal approved by their respective boards in February.

However, experts have expressed concerns that the consolidation would create a powerful duopoly that could lead to a slowdown in telco innovation and reduced competitiveness. With only two telco players in the market, there is a risk that the investment in – and rollout of – new technology will slow down. 

In July, according the Bangkok Post (citing a source close to the NBTC board), two of the four subcommittees set up by the regulator to assess the impact of the merger voted against the deal.

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