Mobile operators must now start disconnecting the SIM cards of prepaid mobile users who failed to register their numbers or face stiff penalties, warns the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).
Operators will have to pay a fine of 0.3% of their total annual revenue if the regulator finds any unregistered user of SIM cards used their number to ignite a bomb.
The order was made to ensure new security is being implemented to prevent bombs that use a mobile phone as a trigger device.
NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said the regulator has started sending the order letters to all mobile operators, forcing them to cut off the phone signals of unregistered prepaid numbers.
The regulator previously announced that prepaid mobile users who failed to register their personal information by the July 31 deadline would be cut off and unable to use outbound mobile calling and data services.
Those users can still receive incoming calls and SMS messages for one more month.
Operators must inform such users 30 days before cutting off their services, in line with regulations governing telecom service contracts.
The cabinet last month approved the regulation requiring all mobile users to register their prepaid SIM cards earlier this year as part of the national security agenda. Several bombings in the South have been triggered by mobile phones with such SIM cards.
“Operators must speed up informing their unregistered customers and strictly comply with our order or face heavy fines,” said Mr Takorn.
He said the fine rate of 0.3% of total annual revenue was in line with the NBTC’s regulations.
The regulator will impose 0.1% of total annual revenue if operators violate the order. The fine will increase to 0.3% if it causes damage to public benefits, rising to 0.5% if a company’s competitive moves have a noticeable impact on business competition.
Up to 71 million prepaid numbers, out of a total 85.5 million issued numbers, have been registered with users’ personal information.
Of the total 14.5 million unregistered numbers, 10.9 million are inactive and the remaining 3.6 million are still active, Mr Takorn said.
“We’re focusing on the 3.6 million numbers that are still active,” he said.
A mobile phone without a registered SIM card cannot make a call or access the Internet. Mr Takorn said this would prevent criminals using unregistered SIM cards from easily exploiting the numbers for illicit activities.
Digital TV transition woes
Meanwhile, Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has insisted it did its best to support the digital TV transition and had complied with the rules and regulations.
The regulator came out to defend its role and responsibility after five digital TV channels jointly filed a lawsuit against it on Monday at the Central Administrative Court alleging it failed to facilitate the smooth digital transition.
The five digital TV channels — Thairath TV, PPTV, Bright TV, One Channel and GMM Channel — are demanding 9.55 billion baht compensation plus 7.5% interest from the NBTC for business losses.
The NBTC’s secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said the regulator took measures to push forward the digital TV transition and did everything based on rules and regulations. He said it did its best to assist the operators of the 24 digital TV channels to run their operations.
“We did our job and didn’t favor anybody. If the operators are not happy and have chosen to file a lawsuit against us, we respect their viewpoints. We will provide factual information to the court and let it decide this case,” he said.
The five digital TV channels claimed in a joint statement that the NBTC ignored or delayed its duty, which caused delays in the distribution of subsidy coupons and the expansion of the digital TV network. Moreover, its move to control the quality of set-top boxes was slow, they alleged.
Furthermore, the statement alleged that the regulator did little to build public awareness of digital TV, meaning many people were uneasy about shifting to the new format. This led to low viewership and low advertising airtime rates.
Despite the lawsuit, Mr Takorn said the NBTC would continue to move forward to expand digital TV network coverage and issue the remaining subsidy coupons.
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