11 July 2024

Telecom service providers will be asked to tidy up their overhead cables in Bangkok, in a fresh bid to speed up the plan by the Metropolitan Electricity Authority (MEA) and the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to put all cables underground.

Placing partial onus on the telcos is one of the proposals made during a meeting today (Friday) of representatives of the NBTC, the MEA and the Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA), chaired by Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda.

The meeting stems from the fire at Chinatown’s Sampeng market on June 26th, in which two people lost their lives and a few others suffered the effects of smoke inhalation. The fire is believed to have started in an old transformer and flames spread along the cables to adjoining shop houses.

It was agreed at the meeting that all overhead cables in Bangkok, which include high voltage, low voltage and communications cables, must be properly separated and bundled by type, for convenient management, before they are moved underground.

It was pointed out during the meeting that there are more than ten sets of telecommunication cables belonging to separate service providers.

General Anupong said that if these cables could be bundled together, they would look less messy, adding that redundant cables should be removed.

He noted that all the telecommunications service providers must work together on how they will manage the cables and whether they can afford to do the job, adding that the NBTC, the regulatory body for telecom services, should play a role in this endeavour, to manage the overhead cables properly.

Representatives of the NBTC accepted that some of the overhead telecom cables are still needed, but they must be properly bundled. It was proposed during the meeting that work would be done in phases and that service providers should be responsible for their own cables.

According to the MEA, the plan to bury the power cables in Bangkok, covering a distance of 127 km on 39 routes, is estimated to cost 48 billion baht over five years.

Rajavithi Road was chosen as the first area where overhead power and telecommunications cables were moved into underground ducts. Work commenced in July 2016.