NT looks to hire Thaicom to handle satellite systems

DES minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn (centre) on Thursday visited Thaicom's headquarters to ensure the services related to the two satellites will not be disrupted during the transition period. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

National Telecom (NT) is mulling hiring SET-listed satellite service provider Thaicom to handle the control systems of the Thaicom 4 and 6 satellites to ensure a smooth transition of operations, as Thaicom's 30-year concession is scheduled to end on Friday, says the Digital Economy and Society (DES) Ministry.

Details of an agreement have yet to be concluded.

After the concession ends, Thaicom has to hand over related assets of Thaicom 4 and 6 to NT, which was founded through the merger of CAT Telecom and TOT in January this year.

Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, the DES minister, said NT is ready to take over the assets of the satellites.

"NT will handle these assets and manage them with transparency by taking into account the interests of the state and the public," said Mr Chaiwut.

The minister visited Thaicom's headquarters on Thursday to ensure services related to the two satellites will not be disrupted during the transition period.

Thaicom's satellite control system centre in Nonthaburi as well as related equipment have been transferred to the ministry.

Thaicom 4 is a broadband satellite and Thaicom 6 is a broadcasting satellite. Thaicom had a revenue-sharing concession with the DES Ministry.

As the operational life of the two satellites extends beyond the term of the concession, the ministry has the right to operate them after the concession.

The engineering life span of Thaicom 4 ends in 2023 and that of Thaicom 6 expires in 2029.

The National Digital Economy and Society Committee recently resolved to assign NT to operate Thaicom 4 and 6 after the concession to ensure service will continue during the transition period.

Thaicom's 30-year concession followed the build-transfer-operate model.

The firm paid 13.7 billion baht in revenue sharing to the state from six satellites it has operated throughout the concession.

The country is moving away from a concession model for satellite business to a licensing regime.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission previously planned to hold an auction for four satellite orbital slot packages on Aug 28, awarding licences for the right to use orbital slots.

The event was scrapped after only one firm -- TC Space Connect, a company wholly owned by Thaicom -- agreed to participate in the auction.

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