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DES mulls move on Thaicom

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DES mulls move on Thaicom

Backup satellite service in question

The Thaicom 5 satellite is operated by the country's biggest satellite firm.
The Thaicom 5 satellite is operated by the country’s biggest satellite firm.

The Digital Economy and Society (DES) Ministry through its legal panel is set to enter the arbitration process against SET-listed satellite service provider Thaicom for contractual breach in connection with satellite Thaicom 5.

Thaicom 5 had a technical incident with the status notification system last December. Thaicom has rented transponder capacity from foreign satellites to address the problem since early this year, following approval by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) board.

These foreign satellites are KTSat 8, Measat 3, Measat 3A and Apstar 7.

DES Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta said the ministry set up the legal panel last month to consider whether Thaicom’s move to deal with the problem breaches the company’s satellite concession contract and a cabinet resolution.

The panel comprises representatives from various agencies, including the Council of State and the Office of the Attorney-General.

The contract stipulates that the concessionaire is obliged to have a pair of satellites — main and backup — for satellite services.

Thaicom 5 is the main satellite and Thaicom 6 is supposed to be the backup. As Thaicom 5 has been out of service and Thaicom 6’s capacity is fully used, this has raised questions about which satellite could serve as Thaicom 5’s backup.

“Can these foreign satellites be regarded as backup satellites or not?” Mr Buddhipongse said.

He said the panel must study the contract, which was drafted almost 30 years ago, to figure out whether Thaicom violated the contract and discern any damage incurred from the possible breach.

“The conclusion from the panel is expected in July,” Mr Buddhipongse said.

The minister said the move in the arbitration proceeding could help ward off a future legal backlash, particularly with regard to Section 157 of the Criminal Code, concerning malfeasance.

Thaicom chief executive Anant Kaewruamvongs said the company understands the DES Ministry’s move, saying the authorities may want to ensure they will not face a legal backlash in the future.

He declined to discuss details in connection with the concession, saying only that the company is willing to cooperate with the state.

Mr Anant said Thaicom 5 was sent into orbit to replace satellite Thaicom 3, which had an accident in the past. Thaicoms 4 and 6 seemed to be the backups for Thaicom 5.

“The company is ready to discuss it in the arbitration process,” he said.

In early 2019, Thaicom proposed installing a power supply extension system in Thaicom 5 and requested an extension of another four years for concession terms due to expire in September 2021.

The cabinet gave the green light to installation of the power supply but disagreed with the extension of the concession terms.



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