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Thai Airways Plans to Provide In-Flight Wi-Fi,Green Light from NBTC

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Thai Airways International (THAI) plans to make WiFi internet available on flights as the national carrier prepares to apply for a licence with the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission(NBTC) ,and NBTC concluded that the carrier could offer in-flight Wi-Fi.

Jesada Sivarak, secretary to NBTC vice chairman Settapong Malisuwan, said august,28 that the panel had concluded that THAI could provide data services via Wi-Fi technology. The watchdog has already advised the airline to apply for a licence to provide the service.

“Now THAI is in the process of preparing to ask for a type-1 license from a service-provider so it can offer Wi-Fi on its planes,” he said.

Two years ago, the airline asked the regulator for two licences to provide both in-flight WiFi and mobile service.

But Mr Jesada said the NBTC could not award a licence for mobile services as it would violate Section 46 of the Frequency Allocation Act, which stipulates that such a spectrum must be allocated via auction only.

He said the NBTC has reserved the 2.4-gigahertz spectrum for WiFi use on board.

Mr Jesada said THAI is obliged to choose either OnAir of Switzerland or Britain’s AeroMobile Communications as an international WiFi network service provider.

OnAir is incorporated as a joint venture with Airbus. As of March, OnAir services were available in more than 50 countries and via 16 airlines flying over five continents.

AeroMobile, incorporated with Boeing, provides technology and services that enable airline passengers to use their mobile phones for voice calls, texting and mobile data while flying.

Thai law obliges those wanting to use spectra to provide telecommunication services to bid for those spectra, and they have to provide the service on their own.

But the providers of this kind of in-flight service are foreign companies that work on a revenue-sharing basis with the carrier. Foreign firms cannot bid for Thailand’s spectra. If Thai Airways wants to provide on-board telecom service, it has to be subject to the Frequency Allocation Law regardless of where it flies, as its aircraft are legally considered Thai territory under the Civil Code.

Meanwhile, the NBTC is drafting satellite-licensing regulations, which are expected to be completed this year. There will be one type of licence for a satellite service and another for an earth-station uplink-downlink service.

The satellite licences will be valid for 20 years and oblige the holders to launch their satellites within seven years after obtaining the licence.

There will also be separate licences for those planning to use Thailand’s own orbital slots and those aiming to use the slots of foreign countries. The operators of these two licence types do not need to bid for spectra to operate the satellites.

Currently, the Information and Communications Technology Ministry has reserved four orbital slots, 78.5 degrees east latitude, 50.5 degrees east, 119.5 east and 120 east, all being used by satellite operator Thaicom.

The earth-station licence has a 15-year term, and the applicants have to bid for the spectra to offer the services. But the NBTC’s working group on this regulation has yet to conclude the auction method.

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