View Full Version : DTAC Seeking NBTC Termination Foreign Dominance Regulations

Kanok Karn
1st December 2011, 12:26
The filing last Friday was on the grounds that the regulations, which took effect in August are unlawful.

A source at the National Broadcasting and Telecommu nications Commission or NBTC said that DTAC which has Norway's Telenor as its strategic partner had been concerned that the regulations might adversely affect its plan to bid for a licence to use the 2.1 gigahertz spectrum to provide cellular broadband service. The NBTC is expected to auction the new spectrum licences next year.

DTAC claims that there is no specific provision of law empowering the NBTC to issue the regulations. While the regulations were drafted on the basis that a foreign controlled entity is harmful to the national security interest of Thailand, the company says the watchdog has failed to clarify why it is so harmful.

The NBTC already has specific measures against national-security threat behaviour, such as phone-tapping, the company argues.

The suit adds that the regulations are against the policy of the current government regarding the attraction of foreign investment. Moreover, certain requirements of the regulations are against basic Thai law, such as shareholders' right to appoint a board of directors, and cannot be complied with by operators.

NBTC member Colonel Settapong Malisuwan on 30 November, 2011 said DTAC had informed the agency about the filing, and he understood that the company was acting to protect its interests.

According to DTAC chief executive officer John Eddy Abdullah, it is the company’s belief that the regulations would restrict competition and create an unlevel playing field, which would have a long term negative effect for Thai consumers. The regulations contradict Thailand's international trade commitments and does not support Thailand's ambitions and long term strategy to attract more foreign investments into the country. They should not be also applicable to the telecom concessionaires and existing licensees as they obstruct competition on equal terms, and denies access to international best practices that benefit consumers.

The NBTC will hold a public hearing among specific groups on the foreign-dominance regulations tomorrow to see whether they should be reviewed.

The regulations have been opposed by many parties on the grounds that they discourage foreign investment in Thailand and might contravene the country's free trade commitments to global organisations.

Supporters of the regulations consider they are needed to protect telecommunications spectra, which are a precious national resource and the national interest.

The now defunct National Telecommunications Commission took many years to develop a draft of the regulations. It was also concerned about the use of nominees to hold shares in local telecom companies on behalf of foreigners to the point where actual foreign shareholding exceeds the permissible level of 49 per cent.

The regulations define foreign dominance as direct and indirect control over a company's policies and the appointment of directors and high-ranking management.

While DTAC has Telenor as its foreign strategic partner, market leader Advanced Info Service has Singapore Telecom.

True Corp is the only telecom operator without a foreign strategic partner.

Total Access Communication or DTAC has filed a lawsuit at the Central Administrative Court seeking termination of the national broadcasting and telecom watchdog's regulations aimed at preventing foreign dominance of Thai telecom operators.