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TOT mulls lawsuit against NBTC for US$3.3B loss

The telco is considering suing Thailand's regulator National Broadcasting Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) over the interconnection charge rule, which it claims caused it to lose revenues of US$3.34 billion since 2003.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor

Thai telco TOT is considering taking legal action against the country's telecom watchdog, the National Broadcasting Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), for enforcing a lower interconnection charge for other operators when accessing the former's mobile networks and contributing to its loss in revenues.

Citing Preeya Danchaivijit, TOT's senior executive vice president, the Bangkok Post reported Tuesday that the telco is looking to reinstate the previous system whereby domestic operators--CAT Telecom, Total Access Communication (Dtac), True Move, and DPC--pay 200 baht (US$6.69) a month per number to access its network for mobile post-paid services. TOT also wants 15 percent of prepaid mobile credit, it added.

TOT claims to have lost US$3.34 billion in revenue since 2003 due to the interconnection charge regulation introduced by the now-defunct NTC.

The consideration to file a lawsuit against NBTC follows the petition it filed with Thailand's Administrative Court against the interconnection charge rule previously enacted by NBTC's predecessor--the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC). The IC is a per-minute charge levied by a network operator on another to recover the costs of interconnection facilities.

The NTC regulation allows operators to set different IC rates ranging between 50 satang (US$0.02) to 1.07 baht (US$0.04) per minute, depending on individual agreements.

TOT claimed it had lost as much as 100 billion baht (US$3.34 billion) in revenues since 2003 as a result of the change in rules, the report said.

The telco's hand was likely to be forced by the NBTC, which is looking to institute a new IC pricing of 45 satang (US$0.02) per minute for mobile voice service this month, the Bangkok Post added.

Jesada Sivaraks, the NBTC's vice-chairman secretary, acknowledged that the watchdog is likely to face legal challenges from TOT on the new IC rate.

The new pricing standard will pave the way for NBTC to start granting infrastructure-sharing licenses though, including mobile towers and fiber-optic networks for telecom services by September 2013, Sivaraks explained.

These licenses will also offer both voluntary and compulsory features for infrastructure owners and encourage them to share their networks with existing and new operators alike. It will also encourage telcos to focus on functioning as network service providers rather than operators, he added.

This is not the first time the watchdog has been threatened with legal action by local telcos. In November, two major operators in Thailand who had won the 3G auction, True Move and Advanced Info Service (AIS), threatened to sue the NBTC if it did not issue 3G licenses by mid-January.

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