11 July 2024

Thailand’s opposition Move Forward party is urging the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to block the planned merger between two mobile phone service operators, True Corporation (True) and Total Access Communication (DTAC).

Move Forward party leader, Pita Limjaroenrat, said today (Thursday) that the board has the power to do so and to follow the recommendations from all four panels formed by the NBTC to study the potential impacts of the planned merger.

The panels tasked with studying economic and consumer impacts, people’s rights, impacts on technologies and on legal affairs have already submitted their findings to the NBTC board, containing similar recommendations, namely that the merger should be stopped as it could lead to market control.

Pita cited the findings of the panel on the economic impacts, using an upward pricing pressure model in its study, which shows that the merger may drive the service fees up by between 12% and 40%.

For instance, Pita said that, if a mobile phone user normally pays an average of 500 baht a month in service fees, they may end up paying 700 baht if the merger goes ahead.

He also said that the panel studying the technology aspect of such a merger contends that the two companies can apply new technologies independently, without the need to merge, adding that he hopes that the board, at its meeting next Wednesday, will reject the planned merger as recommended.

The board has, however, ordered more studies before it can make an informed decision on the matter, claiming that the findings from the four panels are insufficient and lack vital information on some areas.

While waiting until the board meets again next Wednesday, Pita said he will join former Future Forward Party Leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit in meeting the media for discussions on ways to provide as much information as possible about the merger plan to the public and its potential impacts.

Several academics and consumer protection groups have been strongly opposed to the merger, which may lead to duopoly in the market, unfair competition and increased service fees.

Thailand’s other two mobile phone operators, Advanced Info Service (AIS) and National Telecom (NT) are in the process of forming a partnership, in which AIS is set to buy 10MHz of bandwidth in the 700MHz spectrum range from NT to expand its subscriber base.