1 Thailand: Enactment of Amendment to the NBTC Act Introduces Substantial Changes On 31 March 2017, the National Legislative Assembly passed an amendment to the Act on Organization to Assign Radio Frequency and to Regulate the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Services B.E. 2553 (2010) (the "Amendment"). The Amendment will be submitted for royal endorsement and subsequent publication in the Government Gazette. The Amendment is aimed at restructuring the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (the "NBTC"), unlocking the spectrum licensing process to meet technological convergence of the telecom and broadcasting sectors, and supporting the establishment of the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society. The key changes are below: 1. The NBTC Currently, NBTC commissioners are separated into two distinct sub-committees, one of which regulates the telecom sector, while the other is responsible for broadcasting. Under the Amendment, the number of NBTC commissioners will be reduced from 11 to 7 persons and they will come together as a single commission overseeing both sectors. The qualifications, selection process, scope of authority, and performance assessment of the NBTC commissioners have also been changed. 2. Spectrum In theory, the spectrum is currently considered a national resource for public benefit, which has led to arguments being raised in regard to spectrum licensing. In the Amendment, however, spectrum is defined as an asset of the nation (as opposed to a resource) that should be used for the benefit of the nation and its people. Some of the key changes to spectrum licensing are as follows: (1) Reallocation The Amendment specifically empowers the NBTC to reclaim unused or used but undervalued spectrums from existing licensees for reallocation, taking into consideration the affected licensee and with the provision of appropriate compensation. (2) Spectrum sharing Under the Amendment, the NBTC will be entitled to prescribe licensing conditions requiring spectrum sharing between the spectrum licensees and other parties, to the extent that the spectrum frequency sharing will not disrupt or compete with the licensee itself, with certain exemptions. This is applicable to both telecom and broadcasting (digital tv) services using spectrum frequency. (3) Exemption from spectrum auction for telecom service Currently, a spectrum license for the provision of telecommunication services using spectrum frequency must be granted through an auction method. Although an auction method will still be required with respect to the grant of a spectrum license for telecom services using spectrum frequency, the Amendment provides exemptions in cases where spectrum 2 frequencies are abundant or are to be used for non-commercial purposes. In these cases other licensing methods could be applied. We expect a significant impact on the telecom and broadcasting industry as a result of the new singlestructure commission established under the Amendment, especially regarding the regulation of convergent technology. We have already seen moves on this from the existing NBTC, which recently announced plans to regulate IoT and OTT service providers (e.g. social networks, e-commerce, instant messaging applications), including the collection of fees and taxes from such services in Thailand. For more information, please contact Dhiraphol Suwanprateep, Pattaraphan Paiboon or Passaporn Wongman.