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Hearing eyed before NBTC opens bids for operation of ThaiCom 4 satellite

A House committee will on February 10 conduct a hearing on the bidding for a licence to operate the ThaiCom 4 communication satellite once the current concession expires next year.

The ThaiCom 4 or IPStar is a commercial telecommunication satellite operated at 119.5 degrees East via two-way KU-band spot beams.

ThaiCom Plc had received a 30-year concession to operate the satellite, which was handed over to National Telecom Plc when the concession expired in September 2011.

The company, owned by INTUCH Holding, continued operating the satellite after the handover because National Telecom lacked the expertise required. However, its operating concession is scheduled to expire next year.

Meanwhile, Palang Pracharat MP Kalaya Rungwichitchai said the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications (NBTC) wants the bidding procedure to kick off well before the licence expires so the country’s telecommunications system does not hit any obstacles.

Kalaya chairs the House committee on telecommunications and digital economy and society which is overseeing the issue.

NBTC, which aims to have the bidding wrapped up by June, told the panel that only a handful of companies in Thailand have the expertise to operate satellites. Kalaya also pointed out that the bid winner will also need to have huge sums of money at their disposal to put forward as a guarantee.

She went on to say that her panel fears there may be a perception of collusion due to the low number of bidders and would like to hear the opinions of the agencies concerned.

Kalaya added that representatives of the NBTC, the National Telecom, Digital Economy and Society Ministry and ThaiCom will be invited to the hearing.

She said the hearing will consult on whether it is possible to lower the specifications in a bid to increase the number of bidders.

“But this may pose a problem because this business needs expensive equipment and special expertise,” the MP said.

She added that the NBTC representative admitted that the telecom watchdog has not done enough to launch public awareness campaigns on the issue, leading to a misperception that the national property will be sold to a private firm via the upcoming bid.

Published : January 28, 2022