Panel calls for 4G winners to save room [Bangkok Post, Thailand :: ]
(Bangkok Post (Thailand) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) July 02--A consumer protection panel is urging the national telecom regulator to amend a significant condition of the fourth-generation (4G) auction draft regarding the responsibility of customer retention.
The condition is meant to force the bid winners to take responsibility for the retention of their 2G customers as mobile operators' concessions are due to expire soon, said Saree Ongsomwang, chairwoman of the NBTC's consumer protection panel.
True Move still has 5 million customers on the 1800-megahertz spectrum, down from 17 million last October.
Digital Phone Co (DPC), a unit of Advanced Info Service, has 10,000 users, down from 70,000 last year.
Concessions for the two companies expired in September 2013. However, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) ordered True Move and DPC to retain 2G service for another year after the expiry date by transferring customers to other networks.
The regulator insisted the signals for 2G SIM cards on the mobile networks operated by True Move and the two mobile companies will be cut off after Sept 15 this year, as the NBTC plans to hold an auction this year to sell two licences for 4G mobile broadband service.
The two operators have to transfer all existing 2G customers to other networks by July before the 4G auction takes place.
The NBTC initially planned to auction the 1800-MHz spectrum to provide 4G wireless broadband service this August, but the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) halted the project.
Ms Saree said the auction winners should allocate some bandwidth on the 1800-MHz spectrum for retention purposes. But she believes customer retention will be short term as 2G mobile service is obsolete.
Duenden Nikomborirak, a speaker at the consumer protection panel, acknowledged that several conditions required of mobile operators impeded customer transfers.
"The regulator must do a better job explaining to 2G users why they must transfer their numbers to other networks on time because only 20% of 2G users transferred after receiving an SMS," she said.
"Many 2G users experienced poor service after moving to another network due to the capacity constraints of the regulator's mobile number portability (MNP) system."
The MNP allows mobile subscribers to switch to different networks while keeping their existing phone numbers, but can only service 600,000 numbers per day.
The lack of service points for MNP is also a problem for customers migrating networks, said Mrs Duenden.
The NBTC rejected True Move's request in April to switch its remaining 5 million 2G customers at once to the 3G cellular network of subsidiary Real Future to accelerate migration. True Move is required to obtain customer consent before migrating them to other networks.
Chakkrit Urairat, deputy director for regulatory relations at True Corporation, said True Move posted a cumulative loss of up to 4 billion baht from last September. The operating loss is because revenue from serving only 5 million users could not offset the operating costs for the networks and services, initially designed to accommodate up to 20 million users.
Mr Chakkrit said in February True Move asked the NBTC whether it could transfer its existing 7 million subscribers to 3G networks by sending text messages without their consent, but this is against the NBTC regulations.
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