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A court decision to issue an injunction suspending the planned auctioning of Thailands third generation 3G network system has shaken confidence among foreign investors keen on investing in Thailand because they fear they could face legal barriers and regulatory risks if they invest here.
According to Federation of Thai Industries FTI chairman Payungsak Chartsutipol, the delay in approving granting the 3G licenses could make Thailand lose opportunity and affect many businesses and people, particularly those living in rural areas, who cannot access information by hi-speed Internet at an affordable price.
By cancelling the auction, Thailand could lag behind other countries.Because of this, the FTI wants the government to step up efforts to eliminate regulatory risks to restore investor confidence.
3G auction postponed until 2012?
If the final verdict in the Constitution Court is a win for CAT, the 3G auction process will be conducted by the NBTC, which still needs its enabling legislation ratified by the Thai parliament.
Even if the government rushes this through the House of Representatives so that it can meet its year-end or early 2011 deadline, finalizing the appointment of the NBTC’s commissioners will probably take months. Then the NBTC has to begin the grueling task of drawing up its frequency master plan and other 3G auction details, which could take several more months.
Thailand’s 3G auction could be pushed back until 2012. The delay could be even longer – AIS chief executive Wichian Mektrakarn has reportedly predicted that it could take at least three years for the NBTC to be established.
Private operators are stuck with 2G, waiting for Thai government next move
The best that the private operators can hope for is that the NTC prevails against CAT in the Constitution Court. Even if this happens, the auctions will have been delayed for months. Meanwhile, AIS, DTAC, and True Move are stuck in a 2G time-warp, relying on GPRS/EDGE to support customer demand for increasingly advanced and bandwidth-hungry applications.