By John Formichella & Naytiwut Jamallsawat
The telecommunications market in Thailand has liberalized since the passage of the Telecommunications Business Act (TBA) of 2001 (see Thailand’s Telecommunications Business Act). Before 2001, the telecommunications sector in Thailand operated under a concession structure whereby an operator would build, transfer, and operate networks under a specific period with the Government of Thailand. However, the passage of the TBA in 2001 did not result in a wholesale change in telecommunications regulation under the regulator, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC). For example, the NBTC has the statutory authority under the TBA to prescribe a business as a telecommunication service and may determine a business as not being a telecommunication service, such as cloud services (see Cloud Services & Telecommunication Licensing in Thailand).
Satellite communication services are defined explicitly as a Telecommunication Business under the TBA. Since 2001 (the year of the TBA), satellite communication services have been provided mainly by a single Thai company. Still, until recently, the NBTC issued a new regulation as a foundation to allow foreign-owned satellites to provide direct services to Thailand.
The NBTC Notification on Rules and Licensing Processes to Use Foreign Satellite Channel to Provide Services in Thailand (“Foreign Satellite Notification”) requires an operator using a foreign satellite transponder to provide services in Thailand to request NBTC approval (“Foreign Satellite Approval”) to have a gateway or an uplink station in Thailand for the provision of foreign satellite services.
The same rules apply regarding whether a Type I, II, or III license is required. Still, concerning foreign-owned satellites, the above notification adds layers of requirements explicitly targeting services in Thailand by foreign-owned satellites. Under the Foreign Satellite Notification, an operator that wants to use a foreign-owned satellite to provide services in Thailand must have the facility and equipment licenses referenced below.
We will not go into specific details of the licensing process, which has many nuances, but will provide some foundational information.
As of October 2023, the foundational licensing structure for foreign satellite services in Thailand is (i) Foreign Satellite Approval, (ii) Type 3 Telecommunications Business Licenses for satellite-related services, (iii) License for a radio communication station and use of frequency, and (iv) Approval to obtain, use, trade, import, install telecommunications equipment.
The above is for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice.
For further inquiries, please contact John Formichella or Naytiwut Jamallsawat at firstname.lastname@example.org