National Telecom may lose OneWeb deal

29 May 2024

Thailand’s state telco National Telecom (NT) is reportedly at risk of losing its partnership with Eutelsat OneWeb, as the LEO satellite operator is said to be considering moving its regional gateway out of the country because of ongoing delays.

According to local media, Eutelsat OneWeb is allegedly meeting with a major telecom operator in Taiwan to discuss the possibility of establishing a gateway there instead of Thailand.

In January, NT announced that it had finished building a satellite network portal site in Ubon Ratchathani province, which OneWeb would use to launch satellite broadband services in the country later this year. But NT’s plans faltered in April when the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) board decided not to approve its application for the necessary licences to operate a service using foreign satellites.

In November 2023, the NBTC approved a new satellite licensing regime under which operators who want to use foreign satellites to offer services must apply for three separate licences rather than one. Those include licences for gateway station facilities, landing rights for uplink and downlink satellite signals, and commercial services. However, the NBTC is under pressure to reconsider allowing foreign satellite services to operate in Thailand in the first place, as Thaicom is has complained such a move will hurt local satellite operators that have invested millions of dollars in securing orbital slots. The NBTC board instructed NT’s management to ‘study all related dimensions involved with the landing rights and gateway licence using foreign satellites and submit the results to the board.’

NT had originally planned to launch OneWeb services in Thailand in mid-2023, but the plan was pushed back because of difficulties in importing the equipment needed for the ground station in Ubon Ratchathani. With the licences still on hold, and with no clear indication of when they will be approved, OneWeb is now looking for alternative locations for its regional gateway.