THE NATIONAL Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission will ask the junta to exercise its sweeping powers to rescue 8 million stranded users of Advanced Info Service’s 2G network if a meeting today fails to prevent service disruption to these customers when AIS has to switch off its 900-megahertz service.
Takorn Tatasith, secretary-general of the NBTC, said its telecom committee yesterday declined to grant AIS’s request to allow it to continue providing second-generation cellular service on the 900MHz spectrum.
The service will shut down on Monday when the NBTC awards a 900MHz licence to True Move H Universal Communication (TUC) of True Corp.
According to the rules that governed last year’s auction of licences on the spectrum, AIS has to switch off its 2G service once the NBTC awards one of the licences. Two companies won licences at the auction, True Corp and Jasmine International.
TUC has informed the committee that it will pay the Bt8.04-billion first instalment of the licence fee and place the bank guarantees for the remaining instalments on Friday.
The committee ordered the NBTC’s staff to call the parties including TUC, TOT, AIS and its affiliate Advanced Wireless Network (AWN) to an urgent meeting today to brainstorm a way to save all 2G users.
This order followed TUC’s proposal to AIS and AWN to offer AIS the use of its 900MHz spectrum for the remaining 8.8 million 2G users, but AIS would have to pay Bt450 million a month for three months.
The committee acknowledged the proposal and asked NBTC staff to handle the issue and submit the resolution to the committee again this Friday.
The fee is based on the Bt76.3 billion that True paid for the 15-year 900MHz licence, Takorn said.
The NBTC wants AIS to use 10MHz of Jas’s bandwidth and 10MHz of TUC’s to provide 2G service for its customers. AIS is expected to pay about Bt450 million to TUC and Bt420 million to Jas.
If AIS uses Jas’s spectrum before the NBTC grants the licence to Jas, AIS has to pay for the use of Jas’ spectrum to the NBTC first and pay Jas later when Jas gets its licence.
The NBTC will pass the money to the state.
Takorn said that if there is no resolution to the matter, the NBTC would ask the military’s ruling National Council for Peace and Order to step in. It would ensure that all 2G users can continue to use their phones until they move to another operator.
Wilai Keangpradoo, senior vice president for public relations at AIS, said the company had many options to protect its 2G-900MHz users including roaming them on Total Access Communication’s 2G-1,800MHz network.
They recently reached an agreement to ensure that all users will not be affected.
Of the 8.8 million users of its 2G-900MHz service, 8 million are AWN customers roaming with AIS.
Recently, AIS asked the NBTC for an extension for its 8.8 million users by using the 900MHz spectrum range that Jas Mobile Broadband of Jasmine International won at auction. However, Jas has not yet paid the first instalment of the upfront fee for this licence.
Takorn said the NBTC was still waiting for Jas to pay before the due date of March 21. Jas has said it will inform the NBTC of its intentions before March 18.