Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Thailand woos Chinese satellite firms

The Information and Communications Technology Ministry and the Defence Ministry are lobbying two Chinese satellite manufacturers to design a satellite for use after Thaicom Plc refused to launch a sixth satellite pending a ruling by the Council of State.

A source said the Defence Ministry held two negotiations with China Great Wall Industry Corporation and China Aerospace Corporation late last year.

The delay in launching a sixth satellite led to a dispute with the ICT Ministry over whether Thaicom was committed under its concession to launch Thaicom 6, which is to be decided by the Council of State.

The ministries claim Thaicom is obligated to launch a sixth satellite to replace the first one that has reached the end of its lifespan. Thaicom argues that to do this it must have its concession extended from nine years or it will launch a rented satellite.

Following the Defence Ministry's lobbying, the ICT Ministry met with the same Chinese manufacturers with the same offer for design.

The source said both Chinese companies were affiliates of the same organisation, the China Academy of Science and Technology

The source said the move by the two ministries seemed to substantiate an earlier report that a Thai telecom design company was planning to take over Thaicom and enter the satellite business. The ministries are talking to Chinese firms to gain some leverage if Thaicom does get bought out, said the source.

The source said that Thaicom had always insisted it did not breach the concession agreement because it only obliged the company to launch two sets of satellites, Thaicom 1 and 2, and Thaicom 3 and 4, which it has done.

Thaicom claimed the agreement gave the company the right to launch additional satellites to meet business demand, but that a launch was a "given right" and not a "mandate", the source said.

Thaicom told the ICT Ministry it would launch the sixth satellite between 2012 and 2014 and during the procurement process, it would lease a transponder from another satellite company to provide provisional services for its customers with the condition that its satellite concession, set to expire in nine years, be extended to the life-cycle of the satellite. Currently, a new satellite lasts more than 20 years.

Thaicom also wants to adjust the revenue share it must pay the state in order to make its business more competitive, saying it pays more than 1.8 billion baht a year to the government now.

No comments: