Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), said the extension would eliminate the risk of mobile service disruption for some 6 million customers using True Move's 2G service on the 1800-megahertz spectrum. An extension period has not been decided, but the dates are expected to be finalised next month.
The NBTC ordered True Move and Digital Phone Co (DPC), the latter a unit of Advanced Info Service, to retain their customers for another year after their concessions expired last Sept 15. They are not allowed to acquire new subscribers.
True Move still has around 6 million customers on the 1800-MHz spectrum, down from 17 million last October. DPC has 10,000 users, down from 70,000.
Under the customer retention rule, Mr Takorn said True Move and DPC would have less than three months to transfer their customers to other networks or face a mobile signal cut-off following the expiration of the one-year extension period.
The 1800-MHz spectrum was scheduled for auction in August. But the temporary suspension of the 4G spectrum auction could provide more time for True to proceed with customer migration, said Mr Takorn.
To extend the grace period, he said the NBTC needs to amend the regulation governing customer retention after the expiry of concessions in order to avoid any violations.
However, the extension will increase costs for True Move and DPC in retaining their customers for longer.
True Move has posted a cumulative loss of up to 4 billion baht from last September.
Chakkrit Urairat, deputy director for regulatory affairs of True Corporation, said under the customer retention rule True Move has incurred losses of several hundred million baht per month, exceeding 3 billion baht.
Wichian Mektrakarn, chief executive of AIS, admitted DPC is also facing an operations loss each month as revenue from serving only 10,000 users could not offset the operating costs of the networks and services.
Earlier True Move predicted more than 4 million 2G users may still be using its 2G services by September because more than 1 million of these 2G SIM cards are inactive numbers.
It is encouraging its existing 2G customers to migrate to the company's 3G networks on both 850- and 2100-MHz spectrums to avoid service disruption.
Mr Chakkrit said in February True Move asked the NBTC whether it would allow the company to transfer its existing 7 million subscribers to 3G networks by sending text messages without their consent, but this is against NBTC regulations and was rejected.