23 May 2024

The Thailand Consumer Council (TCC) is planning to submit a petition to the country’s telecom regulator against the planned merger between True and Dtac, two of the three major mobile phone service providers in Thailand, out of concerns that the merger will lead to telecom market control and unfair competition, which will not benefit consumers.

TCC Secretary-General Saree Aongsomwang said today (Tuesday) that they will submit letters to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) and the Trade Competition Commission to inform them formally of the council’s disagreement with the merger plan which, she pointed out, will give the new combined entity a 52% market share in Thailand, compared to 44% held by Advanced Info Services (AIS).

True and Dtac currently hold six spectrum licenses each, for 1,420 and 990 MHz frequencies, and have 32 million and 19.3 million mobile phone subscribers respectively, while AIS has five spectrum licenses for 270 MHz frequencies and 43.7 million subscribers.

Ms. Saree said that the merger of True and Dtac will prevent other players from competing and will leave consumers with fewer choices of service providers, which is contrary to the NBTC’s goal.

She claimed that, in many countries, there are 3-4 telecom players “but, here in Thailand, they will be reduced from three to two”, adding that the NBTC should encourage more, to create fair competition for the benefit of consumers.

She also said that Dtac and True should have formed an alliance to share networks, to cut operational costs, instead of merging as one larger entity.

Ms. Saree admitted that the NBTC might not have the authority to prevent the merger, but the TCC, which is mandated by the Constitution, will do its duty to its fullest ability to protect the interests of the consumers over this issue.

TCC chair Boonyuen Siritham clarified that the TCC is not trying to block the merger plan, but is concerned with benefits of the consumers which may be affected, if not now but in the future, by increasing service charges as a result of price collusion.

On Monday, Norway’s Telenor, which is the major shareholder in Dtac, and Charoen Pokphand Group, which owns True, announced an agreement on a merger of their telecom units, creating a new entity and new market leader in Thailand, overtaking the current leader AIS.