Thai 3G future unclear

A Thai appeals court has upheld a
decision to postpone the country’s long-awaited auction of third-generation
mobile telecommunications licences, throwing mobile operators’ plans into disarray.

The move has also raised concerns
about Thailand’s competitiveness in the region.

The National Telecommunications
Commission had been due to start accepting bids on Monday. But late last week a
court issued an injunction after two state agencies involved in licensing 2G,
the current generation of mobile services, challenged the commission’s right to
hold the auction.

Thailand is suffering the result of
two decades of ad hoc telecoms policy that has been heavily influenced by
changing political expediency. Conflicting commercial, political and regulatory
interests, compounded by legal uncertainties, have stalled repeated attempts to
drag the country into the 3G era.

Thailand is the last country in
south-east Asia without high-speed mobile connectivity apart from Burma.

The court decision means that
Thailand’s first 3G licences are unlikely to be issued until the government has
passed new legislation and empanelled a new telecoms authority to organise the
auction, a process that analysts say could take nine months. The result is an
uncertain future for Advanced Info Service, Total Access Communications and
True Corp, Thailand’s three main mobile operators, whose 2G licences will soon

Korn Chatikavanij, the minister of
finance, said the government would try to accelerate the progress of the new
telecoms bill through parliament. He also said he would try to enable the
current 2G concessionaires to offer faster data services using their current

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