Thailand’s NBTC mulls supervision of OTT platforms for fair telecoms

NBTC chairman Dr Sarana Boonbaichaiyapruck, Image courtesy of Bangkok Post

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) is weighing the potential regulation of over-the-top (OTT) platforms in Thailand to create a level playing field and ensure equal treatment in the telecom sector.

Despite major foreign OTT platform providers having established operations offices in Thailand and adhering to value-added tax (VAT) payment rules, the regulator is contemplating whether these operators should pay additional fees to benefit the country’s economy.

NBTC chairman Dr Sarana Boonbaichaiyapruck indicated that the regulator may explore a regulatory framework for OTT players’ use of local telecom operators’ networks, particularly mobile phone operators. However, he emphasised that the framework would need careful implementation and require extensive discussion and active participation from relevant stakeholders, including the government, the regulator, network providers, OTT service providers, and consumers.

“It’s too early to elaborate exactly when and how it would be implemented,” Dr Sarana said.

Popular OTT platforms in Thailand include YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, and Line. The content on these platforms is regulated by the Computer Crime Act, under the Digital Economy and Society and Ministry. Dr Sarana noted that Thai consumers’ heavy use of digital platforms drives the continuous development of these platforms.

Previously, the NBTC management proposed supervising new telecom market segments through the Net Neutrality policy, which aimed to oversee all market players on the basis of fairness and competitive promotion. These new market segments include digital platforms, OTT services, low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite communications, and upcoming innovations driven by next-generation networks such as 5.5G and 6G.

Deputy secretary-general of NBTC, Phoomsisth Mahavessiri, has been studying a strategy for supervising the telecom business, which includes four categories: frequency management strategy, economic regulatory strategy, telecom innovation promotion, and a strategy for comprehensive access to various telecom services.

“Digital platforms, Internet of Things, LEO, and 6G raise challenges on how to strike a balance between a regulatory scheme for all players with fairness, and a supportive ecosystem for innovation development,” Phoomsisth added.

Additionally, Dr Sarana mentioned that his advisory team is examining the concept of “universal service access” (USA), which would enable people to access certain websites and applications that serve basic daily needs without paying a usage fee. However, he stated that the implementation of USA would need to be discussed with telecom licensees, as their licences do not require them to provide such access, reports Bangkok Post.

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