TRUE-DTAC merger may violate the Radio Frequency Act

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Talks of combining frequencies of TRUE & DTAC may be a violation of the Radio Frequency Act unless NBTC grants permission.

As the planned merger of Thailand’s 2nd and 3rd largest mobile phone operators – True Corporation Plc (TRUE) and Total Access Communications Plc (DTAC), marches ahead, talks of possibly combining the various spectrums of the 2 firms could be premature because a merger of the various spectrums would need the blessing of the National Broadcasting & Telecommunication Commission (NBTC).

Any such merger of the spectrums has to be done under special measures that need to be issued by the NBTC, and if the merged entity does it without permission, that act would be in violation of the Act on the Organization to Assign Radio frequency and to Regulate the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Services B.E. 2553 (2010).

“A spectrum license for telecommunications business is the exclusive rights of the licensee and is not transferable,” the 2010 act stipulates.

The merger of TRUE & DTAC, which has received the blessing of many bodies, continues and the 2 telecom companies reported to the Stock Exchange of Thailand on January 12 stating that both companies had passed resolutions to hold a joint shareholders meeting on February 23, 2023, to consider and approve the merger.

The merged entity would be called True Corporation Plc, a move that would likely confuse many of the DTAC users as DTAC has said that its customers would likely continue to see DTAC service on their phones.

Under the NBTC’s conditions of 20 October 2022, True and Dtac will use their existing brand names, True Move H Universal Communications (TUC) and Dtac TriNet (DTN), and they must strictly comply with the pertinent laws concerning spectrum allocation for telecom businesses.

The usage of Spectrum is pursuant to Section 41 para 4, Section 44/1 and Section 44/3 of the 2010 Radio Frequency Act and amendments.

“Section 44/3 – “A spectrum license is the exclusive rights of the licensee and is not transferable,  except in the case that permission has been received from NBTC and the fee for transfer of the spectra has been paid. Criteria, methods, conditions, and fees for transferring a spectrum allocation license must be as prescribed by NBTC’s Announcement. When NBTC had approved the transfer of the license to use spectrum under paragraph 1, the license to provide broadcast, telephone or telecom services that had applied to that spectrum would expire, and NBTC would grant a license to provide broadcast, telephone, or telecom services to the transferee pursuant to the attributes, category and scope of the license of the transferer.”

TRUE & DTAC customers to use spectrum in the original allocations.

Explaining further, the licenses for each company entering the auction for spectrums were the exclusive right of the company and were not transferable, except in the case of receiving permission from NBTC.

In this case, neither TRUE nor DTAC had received any permission from NBTC. The customers of both companies understanding that after the merger they would have more spectrum would therefore be a misunderstanding, and the merging parties could not take further action owing to the breach of this law.

Therefore, customers of both companies had to conduct their use of the service according to the network spectrum in the original allocations, without any increase or decrease.

Previously, DTAC had been making continuous publicity since before NBTC passed its resolution to acknowledge the merger, that DTAC will combine spectrum in every waveband as well as TRUE’s network towers, which would give DTAC customers access to nationwide 4G and 5G coverage.

This may be in conflict with NBTC’s Special Measures and be a breach of the Radio Frequency Act.

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