Thailand may lose two orbital slots if no one takes them soon

Thailand may reportedly lose at least one of its two satellite orbital slots next year if the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) can’t find any takers in its upcoming allocation plan.

Thailand may reportedly lose at least one of its two satellite orbital slots next year if the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) can’t find any takers in its upcoming allocation plan.

According to the Bangkok Post, Thailand’s rights for the orbital slot at 50.5° E expires next year, while another slot at 142° E will expire in 2027.

Both slots have been vacant for some time, and efforts by the NBTC to sell them have been largely unsuccessful.

Digital economy and society minister Prasert Jantararuangthong told the Post that one reason is the orbital slots in question provide geostationary coverage for the Caribbean Sea and the Middle East, which presents commercial challenges for any Thai company that takes them.

The NBTC attempted to award the two slots in January 2023 as part of a broader auction of five sets of orbital slots. Thaicom affiliate Space Tech Innovation paid 797 million baht (US$22.1 million) for two sets (78.5° E and 119.5° E/120° E), and state telco National Telecom (NT) paid 9.07 million baht for the 126° E slot. However, the slots for 50.5° E, 51° E and 142° E went unsold.

The NBTC is currently planning to award the 50.5° E and 142° E slots in June this year to avoid having to return them to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the report said.

An anonymous source at the NBTC told the Post that the regulator is considering several methods for awarding the orbital slots, including an auction, beauty contest, a revenue-sharing arrangement or direct awarding to specific companies under specific conditions.

The report said that NBTC prefers the auction route, and may sweeten that option with a low reserve price. However, industry observers say that may fail, as the auction plan requires at least two bidders.

According to earlier media reports, NBTC held a focus group meeting with private and public stakeholders in April 2023 to gauge interest in methods for allocating the 50.5° E and 142° E slots, and participants said they would prefer anything except an auction.

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