In the past, the telecoms market in Thailand was characterised by low competition, as services were exclusively provided by the state-owned operators Telephone Organisation of Thailand (TOT) and Communication Authority of Thailand (CAT). TOT once held the monopoly over the domestic telephony segment and CAT over international gateway services (e.g. long distance call services). Recognising the need for further expansion to meet the bourgeoning telecommunications needs of the expanding population and enterprises, the government has allowed private companies to take part in the development of the sector through PPP’s Build-Transfer-Operate (BTO) agreements, but with a view to protecting the market dominance of the state-owned TOT and CAT. As a result, competition among mobile operators ushered service expansion in the country, with mobile subscriptions growing continuously over the years.
A time followed with several political and economic changes which also affected the telecom industry: the Thai government instituted reforms in the telecom sector, starting with the Telecommunications Business Act which mainly increased shareholding powers of foreign investors of up to 49% in telecom companies. However, key events and changes in the political and structural landscapes hampered further reforms in the telecom segment. This prompted the replacement of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) with a new office named National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) in 2010 to address the reforms in the sector.
InfoCom expects that after the successful auction planned for September 2014 for 1 800 MHz spectrum, Thailand’s mobile telephony market will expand rapidly in the following five years albeit more on the service offering, as the already high mobile penetration rate in the country will dictate the operators to focus increasingly on enticing their current 2G subscribers to migrate to 3G packages to derive additional revenue.