National Strategic Planning and Practice
The Case of Thai Telecommunications Management
Challenges for Developing the 21st Century NII
and Incorporating with the GII


Liaquat Hossain
ABAC Graduate School of Business
Assumption University of Thailand
24 Ramkamhaeng Road, Huamark
Bangkok 10240 Thailand
mbalhs@au.ac.th



Abstract

Telecommunications network development in Thailand has continued to be guided by the need to meet the rapidly growing demand for public fixed wired telephone lines. It is also widely recognised that the use of inappropriate -- or lack of -- national strategic planning for the development of a National Information Infrastructure (NII), can be a very expensive oversight. We report a case study of the Thai Government agencies responsible for the development of the Thai telecommunications network from now to the 21st Century. In-depth interviews were conducted in 1996 with the senior executives from: the Telephone Organisation of Thailand (TOT); the Communications Authority of Thailand (CAT); the Post and Telegraph Department (PTD); the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MOTC); the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST); the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI); and, the Thai Telephone and Telecommunications (TT&T).

One of the main findings of the study is that it will be difficult to create economies of scale for the telecommunications network, if the government intends to continue to place strict limitations on the number of lines to be installed in a specific geographical location. It can be argued that this strategy is likely to result in a higher cost for services, and that the subscribers will end up paying for this through higher prices. However, it is also revealed a fundamental gap between the organisational Strategic Planning Process (SPP) that actually occurs; and the translation of the resulting plan(s) into an effective national telecommunications infrastructure development plan. In addition, this study addressed the question of how to develop the Thai NII and identified the role of the major participants in the NII process. It is further argued that Bill Clinton and Al Gore’s vision towards the GII may not be materialised in reality without recognising that nations like Thailand need to be viewed as a combination of many individuals and organisations. Using the case of Thailand, it is evident that only then can a GII be successfully developed and fully integrated with a NII.

From a theoretical perspective, three themes emerge from the study reported: The SPP function can be viewed as a set of problem solving actions; and it can function both as a policy control tool and learning process. However, the main finding is that the Thai Telecommunications Strategic Planning Processes (TSPP) has largely been viewed by the local concessionaries as a problem solving process.

Introduction

Telecommunications in Thailand continues to rely upon a complex set of policy guidelines and regulations shared among several government agencies and government owned service providers under monopoly law (Hossain and Lindley, 1997). Under the existing telecommunications regulatory regime, the MOTC has control of certain aspects of the domestic telecommunications industry. The Thai telecommunications regulatory environment remains uncertain. The TOT, a State Owned Enterprise (SOE) under the management and direction of the MOTC, was established according to Royal Decree on February 24, 1954. At the time of its establishment, the TOT’s main objectives were two fold: to operate and develop national telephone services for higher benefits of the state and the public; and, to carry out all business relating or beneficial to telecommunications activities in Thailand. The TOT had only 4 exchanges at the time of its establishment with a total asset of 50 million baht and 700 employees (TOT, 1991). In 1960, 47 provincial telephone exchanges with an estimated 9,700 lines was transferred to the TOT by the PTD. From 1964 to 1969, the long distance telephone networks were transferred to the TOT by the MOTC as well. The TOT also introduced many new services and installations for increasing the efficiency of their networks and for providing more reliable and cost effective services to the customers from 1986 to 1991.

The CAT was established by Royal Decree on the September 21, 1976 (CAT ACT. 1976). It was separated from the PTD to act as a SOE. At the beginning of its establishment, the CAT’s responsibility was three folded: to provide the domestic and international postal services; to provide international telecommunication services; and lastly, to provide the domestic telegraph and telex services. The CAT also operates radio telephone services, HF and UHF radio telegraph service, maritime mobile radio service, VHF radio service, VHF radio mobile service and radio paging. The CAT also plays an active role both as a regulator of local and international telecommunications services; and acts as a key service provider in the domestic telecommunications market. The CAT has maintained its authority to regulate and control the international telephone markets; and local as well as long distance telex and telegram services under the CAT Act of 1976. Under the Radio Communications Act of 1955, the PTD retains its authority to regulate radio communications. Since its establishment, CAT was involved in telecommunications and provided the international long distance services as well as introduced a range of value added services to the Thai telecommunications industry. With the government’s intention to privatise the CAT, it also awarded concessions to the private sectors for the provision of value added telecommunication services.

During the reign of King Chulalongkorn, telephone operations were taken over from the Defence Ministry. The PTD was founded in 1886 with the sole responsibility for the country’s telephone and postal services. Two acts are enforced by the PTD: the Telegraph and Telephone Act B.E. 2477 (1934); and, the Radio Communication Act B.E. 2498 (1955). However, there has been significant change in the Thai telecommunications industry over the last 42 years. The PTD’s regulatory authority has been reduced since the establishment of the TOT in 1954 and the CAT in 1977. The establishment of the TOT and the CAT took over the PTD’s operation of the domestic telephone services, international telephone, postal, telex, telegraph and money order services.

At present, the PTD is responsible for the control and management of the radio frequencies. The PTD also regulates and coordinates domestic communications via satellite. The PTD represents the Thai telecommunications industry in international seminars and meetings. Besides these, the PTD is responsible for the investigation of more advanced telecommunications technologies and prepares proposals for the government’s consideration. It is also responsible for the overall planning and coordination of telecommunication affairs in Thailand. Currently, the PTD is also acting as a central agency for the overall planning and coordination of the telecommunications activities in Thailand. The PTD is also at present, responsible for managing and controlling of the radio frequency, regulations and coordination of the domestic communications via satellite through integrated ground stations (Charavejasarn, 1994:5). Thus, all three organisations the TOT, the CAT, and the PTD, are responsible for telecommunications industry development in Thailand under the direction of the MOTC. It is also required by the Thai Government that all the SOEs and government organisations, cooperate and receive the planning guidelines from the NESDB.

Figure 1 provides the conceptual framework of the Thai telecommunications regulatory structure. The shaded lines of the conceptual framework represents the equivocal relationships and the darker lines represent distinct relationships. The regulatory structure of Thai telecommunications represents a high degree of involvement from the different levels. All these organisations eventually have to submit their strategic plan to the Budget Bureau and the Thai Cabinet for the formal approval. The literature on the Thai telecommunications industry revealed that the roles and relationships of these national telecommunications players and their involvement with the other governing bodies are rather ambiguous. This ambiguity also acts as one of the major impediment to the successful formulation and implementation of the Thai NII and incorporating with the GII.

Background to the Problem

Preliminary investigation of the Thai telecommunications suggests that most private sector organisations are still in the process of establishing a strategic planning department and the telecommunications strategic plan to be followed in the near future. Apparently, the strategic planning literature has also provided an indication about the lack of an established theoretical basis for a TSPP, both at the organsational and at the national level. It is observed that the public sector organisations face difficulty in relation to Government regulation and control over the organisation’s strategic planning processes. The same observation was made in the case of Thailand, where the SOEs and other government organisations were required to submit their strategic plan to the Ministry concerned, the NESDB, the Cabinet and the Budget Bureau. The telecommunications managers at present, face astute challenges due to the changing nature of telecommunications technology. It is believed that new technologies require a new way of managing and planning and also new strategies to maintain the compatibility with the technology adoption. Changes in the international marketplace have also put pressure on the organisations’ TSPPs.


Figure 1. A Conceptual Framework of the Thai Telecom Regulatory Structure
(Hossain and Lindley, 1997)

Investigation of the TOT revealed that there has been tremendous change in the Thai government’s policy for the immediate network expansion, which serves to cater the telephone demand for the rapidly growing economy. Findings suggested that the paradoxical revenue sharing agreement between the private concessionaries are considered to be one of the major impediments for future foreign investment into the Thai telecommunications market. The Thai government, now needs to develop better policy mechanisms to accommodate the private sectors for further telecommunications development. During 1991, the Thai Government failed to provide an adequate response to the growing subscribers demand for the telecom services in Thailand. However, previous studies of the Thai telecommunications, suggest that the TOT’s planning is more in the nature of an ‘action plan’ rather than a ‘strategic plan’, and perhaps, relied on using strategic planning for solving the more immediate problems. The TOT’s second corporate plan provides for the management procedures and the organisational structure, but it failed to support this policy. The TOT findings also suggests that it undertook too many projects, and most projects were not completed within the predicted time frames. Similar observations were made with regard to the TOT’s telephone expansion plan for the year 1991, which in fact, failed to meet the expected target by 23.2% of the total installation. The TOT has also failed to meet its targeted telephone expansion for the urgent telephone expansion project by 77.7%. Already, it is evident from the TOT’s history, that the emphasis is more on the introduction of the new products and services, rather than to expand the network for the benefit of the Thai people.

The historical background of Thai telecommunications suggests that the CAT has not played as significant a role as the TOT in the development of basic telecommunications infrastructure in Thailand. The CAT was established to provide efficient postal and telecom services throughout the nation. However, it is evident from the literature reviewed that the introduction of the CAT’s new technology for providing business solutions, has helped Thailand improve investment in business, improve international trade, and it has brought technological competition into the market. However, the new services of the CAT were aimed at integrating with the services of the TOT and its existing telephone exchanges. The CAT has also invited the private sectors, to jointly participate in the value added telecom service market in Thailand. Looking at the Thai telecommunications industry structure and the roles of the major players in a National Telecommunications Strategic Planning Process (NTSPP), it is evident that the comprehensive TSPP at the organisational level is not clear. In this regard, the TDRI in 1993, has identified that it is now time for the CAT to rethink its strategic planning process and make it more compatible with the current growth of the industry as well as the changes in the international marketplace. Preliminary investigation on the strategic planning and practices among the Thai telecommunications players has suggested that it is now time for the Thai telecommunications industry to take a united step towards a comprehensive NTSPP, so that it can avoid the chaos among the major actors and can also sustain the economic development of the nation.

Over the years, the PTD also played a significant role in the development of the Thai telecommunications infrastructure. The PTD introduced the Communications Information Systems (CIS) for compiling and collecting updated data with desired correctness. Previous analyses also suggest that the PTD has played a significant role in improving and modernising the radiocommunications Act 1955. Considering the changes in the telecommunications industry, the PTD introduced a training program for its staff, with a view to upgrade and improve their understanding of new radiocommunications principles. The PTD also has assisted the Thai Government by taking the initiatives to upgrade the frequency and time standards for radiocommunications in Thailand. The PTD is also responsible for, and acts as a central agency for representing the Thai telecommunications in the international marketplace.

To date, there is no such evidence of the use of a comprehensive NTSPP in the Thai telecommunications industry. However, steps are being taken by the government to develop a NTSPP. The development and implementation of a NTSPP are now, becoming a strategic necessity, not only for a country like Thailand, but also for all other developing nations, in order to provide the backbone infrastructure required for the development of the future Thai NII. The main problem to be addressed here is:

How can the need for a more formal TSPP for the Thai telecommunications actors be better satisfied and integrated to support the NII and incorporate with the GII?

Theoretical Considerations

The Strategic Planning Process or SPP can be defined as the methods and practice that the organisation uses to assess their internal and external capabilities and formulate a detailed plan of action to fulfill these. In this regard, the literature suggests that strategy is the outcome of the planning process. To explain it further, it is important to mention that a well versed planning process will aid in developing and contributing to the organisational strategy development. Lumpkin and Dess argues that a SPP should be kept simple and systematic for bringing the flexibility in an uncertain environment (Lumpkin and Dess, 1995). Indication can be found in the strategic planning literature that the strategic planning process can be viewed from three contexts: function as a problem solving process; function as a control process; and, function as a learning process.

The available literature on strategic planning and practices has provided a mixed support on the function of a strategic planning in the organisation. There are criticisms on the adoptability as well as the applicability of these processes in the telecommunications planning process. It is important to mention that the process should deserve a good distinction when the industry structure is very uncertain and changes are rampant. It is also evident that none of these processes stand alone and will eventually make some significant contribution to the telecommunications planning process. In the case of telecommunications planning process, an integration of these two processes will provide a better environment and solutions to the planning processes of the development of a Telecommunications Strategic Plan (TSP). Integrated process will eventually bring a greater flexibility to the telecommunications managers in their planning process and that may provide a good basis for the integration of the other organisational functions.

Strategic management research reveals that tailoring an organisation’s strategic planning system to its context is not a popular practice (Chakravarthy, 1987). The major findings by Chakravarthy suggests that lack of concern of planners for tailoring their planning systems to the organisational context is repeatedly encumbering the planning process for a rapidly changing industry. Perhaps the traditional managers are more concerned with endowing the traditional planning process with permanent characteristics rather than adapting the planning process to the changing environmental influences (Chakravarthy, 1987). There are hundreds of models of process can be found in the wide body of management literature and all of these are the processes by which strategy could possibly be formally developed and operationalised.

A wide body of strategic planning literature is focusing on the formalised SPP as a measure of control. However, it is also observed from the literature that there is an indication of the function of strategic plan as a control process. For the purpose of this study, the function of a control process is defined on the basis of establishing a procedure of action among the key players in the organisation. In this regard, Christensen indicated that strategic formation should be a controlled, conscious process of thought (In: Mintzberg, 1994: 38). Furthermore, Mintzberg has summarised this by stating that the strategy formation should be controlled and conscious as well as formalised and elaborated process of thought. It should also be decomposed into the levels and supported by techniques (Mintzberg, 1994: 42).

It was argued in the body of strategic planning literature that a well designed SPP will eventually serve as a basis for the strategy formulation. It is observed for the SOEs that the lack of understanding and informal planning process is resulted in a chaos. It is indicated in the previous section that the control process is depicted under the question of what we should be able to do. In this respect, Burton and Forysth argued that the control of a SPP is necessary and it is an integral part of the formulation and implementation of the strategic plan (Burton and Forysth, 1986). It can be noted that the failure to establish a procedure and control of strategic plan can lead to a less optimal performance (Migliore, Stevens, Loudon, and Williamson, 1995: 29). Furthermore, Migliore et al argued that the evaluation and control stage of a SPP can be compared with the setting of a journey with a road map (118: 1995). It can be further argued that no plan is complete without a proper procedures for control. However, most of the state owned enterprises and the government organisation lack the control in the strategic planning process. In his book, Naylor (1980) argued that the key effective strategic planning is in achieving the proper balance between top down and bottom up planning.

In their research, Lorange and Morton (1974, In: Lorange, 1993: 32-33) indicated that the concepts of management control has been studied by many academic researchers over the past 20 years and some of the work is so general that they yield less guidance for the researchers and for the practitioners (1993: 33). Considering the wide diversity of management literature on the control process, Lorange and Morton proposed that the fundamental purpose of the control process is to help the management accomplish an organisation’s objectives through the provision of a formalised framework. However, the framework is used for the purposes of the identification of pertinent control variables, the development of a short-term plan, the recording of the tasks fulfillment, and the diagnosis of deviations (1993: 33). It is also evident from Lorange and Morton’s work that the control process will aid in fostering the involvement of the managers in the planning process (1993: 38).

A large body of strategic planning literature is found to be under the premise that a SPP is a function of learning. Organisational learning should be viewed as a continuous process and in this regard, strategic planning process should be considered as a never ending process (Migliore, Stevens, Loudon, and Williamson, 1995: 30-31). The first step in the organisational development is the establishment of the procedure of learning. All the organisationas should be a learning organisation and eventually it will become a teaching organisation. So, organisations learn through the exercise and implementation of a SPP and adopting it as an organisational culture. Literature on public sector planning and practices provide an useful insights that one of the important reason for viewing the strategic planning as a process is the learning. In this regard, Migliore, Stevens, Loudon, and Williamson

argued that a process can be studied and improved. The study and improvement of the process of a strategic plan can be occurred through the management learning (1995: 30). Three reasons that are identified by Migliore et al for viewing the strategic plan as a process are--First, process can be studied and improved; Second, a change in any component of the process will affect the most or all of the component, and lastly, the involvement in a SPP can become a vehicle through which the whole organisation mobilizes its energies to accomplish its purpose.

It is evident from the strategic planning and practices literature that organisations learn through trail and error. This can only be materialised, if the organisation have a concern for the process of a strategic plan. In the theory of ‘Learning School’, Mintzberg argues that strategy emerge in the process of collective learning (Mintzberg, 1994: 3).

Findings from the Case of the Thai Telecommunications

The TOT’s findings on the level of involvement at a NTSPP, indicate that the TOT is responsible for the provision of a NTSP framework to the MOTC. In this regard, the interview findings suggest that the TOT provides significant input about the data required to develop a NTSP to the MOTC and the NESDB. It is also evident from the findings that, the TOT seldom assists the MOTC in setting up co-ordinated national telecommunications planning objectives. However, Charoenphol from the Office of the Privatisation Affairs, indicated that the TOT’s previous TSP was more of a technical nature and lacked the socio economic objectives of the national development as a whole. With regard to this, Charoenphol stated:

“The TOT’s TSP is now emphasising more and more on the non-technical nature and in the concept of the whole infrastructure development aspects for the whole nation” (Charoenphol, 1996: interview)

A similar observation was made for the CAT with regard to its involvement at a NTSP. There is only one difference between the TOT and the CAT, and that is, the CAT does not provide any input to the MOTC in term of data related to the telecommunications development in Thailand. Besides this, both organisations have the responsibility to act as service providers and regulators in the Thai telecommunications market. Moreover, as a government organisation, and under the Radio Communications Act, the PTD is also responsible for the regulation of the radio communications activities in Thailand. Regardless of the co-operation and co-ordination at a NTSPP, the PTD is also responsible for representing Thai telecommunications in the international marketplace. At present, the PTD is in charge of the process of study to the establishment of a future regulatory authority in the Thai telecommunications industry.

It is observed from the case of the TOT that there are inconsistencies among the executives’ views with regard to the level of cooperation at a NTSPP. The same observation is made for the CAT and the PTD. However, it is evident from the findings on the three case studies that the organisational interaction among the telecommunications organisations is minimal. This may be one of the major impediments to the organisational TSPP transformation into a NTSPP. It is apparent from this examination that the Thai telecommunications industry represents a very complex regulatory structure and the assigned responsibility of the SOEs, are unclear. Yongchareon, from the Office of Local Telephone Concessions, indicated that the TOT does not receive the expected level of cooperation from the CAT. This may be the reason for both the telecommunications operators offering the same telecommunications related services and lead to the questioning of the Thai Government’s ability to assign appropriate responsibility to the TOT and the CAT. In the PTD, the executives have shown dissatisfaction about the TOT and the CAT’s involvement process with the PTD. The PTD executives argued that the TOT and the CAT executives are not co-operative in the co-ordination, and usually send its lower level executives for discussions involving a NTSP with the PTD.

The involvement of politicians in the planning and implementation process is considered to be a hindrance to effective organisational interaction. Some of the executives from the TOT indicated that political party leaders sometimes create new projects for their own benefit and assign the responsibility to a certain company without any discussion with the TOT. These actions, are creating chaos among the telecommunications service providers and operators in the Thai markets and this may become worse after privatisation. The involvement of the NESDB with the TOT, the CAT, and the PTD’s TSPPs are somewhat equivocal and is repeatedly encumbering the national telecommunications infrastructure development agenda. In this regard, Charoenphol stated that:

“The NESDB lacks the expertise in the telecommunications area and sometimes creates the red tapes to the TOT’s TSPP and its implementation” (Charoenphol, 1996: interview)

Charoenphol from the Office of the Privatisation Affairs, has also indicated that the level of cooperation in the past was very minimal, but there have been improvements lately. The above comment of Charoenphol’s was also confirmed by the executives of the CAT. Singhaseni, from the Office of Telecommunications and Business Development, has indicated the same views in regard to the NESDB’s involvement in the CAT’s TSPP. The respondent stated:

“The NESDB seldom requires that certain aspects of a TSP of the CAT need to be changed, without even knowing the details of the situation of the CAT or the TSPP of the CAT” (Singhaseni, 1996: interview)

The findings of the involvement process of the PTD indicate that sometimes the MOTC, the TOT, and the CAT does not inform the PTD of their future intentions about the provision of services or market expansion. The PTD has therefore faced great difficulties in representing the Thai telecommunications industry in the international marketplace. All these analyses provide indications that the Thai Government has largely failed to establish a formal procedure of the involvement and level of cooperation, by assigning the appropriate responsibility to the above telecommunications organisations. The Thai Government therefore should establish a set of rules and procedures for assigning the appropriate responsibility to these organisations for the development process of a NTSP for Thailand.

It is confusing that Charoenphol, from the Office of the Privatisation Affairs, has given as his view, that there is a responsible unit for the monitoring the strategic planning and practices at this organisation. It can also be seen from the TOT that the monitoring process of the TOT’s TSP is very bureaucratic in nature and there is both internal and external involvement. This analysis of the TOT provides an indication that there is no formal monitoring process of a TSP. All the respondents have shared different views on the benefits and the monitoring process and this can lead to generalisations that the organisation has not yet established a formal process for the strategic planning and practices.

It is observed in the case study of the Thai telecommunications industry that the strategic planning and its implementation practices cover a formal procedures and bureaucratic involvement. The TOT case study revealed that political influence is responsible for most of the problems in strategic planning and practices in Thailand. It is evident from the history of Thailand that politics play a major role in industry and there has always been frequent changes in the government’s involvement. Changes in the government bring uncertainty among the organisations’ strategic planning and practices. One of the important issues that came out of the case study of the TOT, is the frequent changes to the plan. Whenever changes occur in the government, there will usually be a significant change in an original NTSP and this creates trouble among the organisations’ planning and practices. Charoenphol indicated, that most important is the concept of project completion. The government procedures of Thai telecommunications industry has to be taken into consideration for the strategic planning and practices. In this regard, Charoenphol stated:

“The concept of strategic planning is very new to the Thai telecommunications industry and human resources at the planning level needs to be trained” (Charoenphol, 1996: interview)

Jorphochaudom, from the CAT’s Office of Telecommunications Planning indicated, that the Thai Government has not yet established a clear policy to guide the telecommunications industry in Thailand. The lack of understanding and lack of information about future government actions are the major problems of the strategic planning and practices in the Thai telecommunications industry. The case study for the PTD provides an indication that government organisations in Thailand are not well funded by the MOF. The procedure of the government funding process is very bureaucratic and involves many processes. This entrenched bureaucratic procedure of the Thai telecommunications is repeatedly creating delays in project completion. Chitraswang from the Office of Foreign Policy on Telecommunications, argued that there are many ideas brought from the western concept of management. It is evident that the case of western management is certainly different than Thailand and western concepts need to be modified or validated into the Thai context before adopting them.

The TOT’s TSPP and its relationship with a NTSPP, indicated that there are four factors identified from the TOT case study in relation to its involvement at the national level of telecommunications planning. First, evidence suggests that the TOT is responsible for providing the data and other inputs concerning the telephone expansion to the NESDB. In that respect the TOT’s TSP not only serves as a national planning guideline, but also makes a significant contribution to a NTSP.

It is observed that in Thailand that there is a great tendency to use foreign models and especially those from the well developed nations. In this regard, the research identifies four major impediments: first, the differences of the culture and style of management practice between these nations; second, the Thai environment is seemingly different from those nations; thirdly, very little evidence has been found about the awareness of the developing nations’ telecommunications planning and practices; and lastly, is the entrenched procedures of the TSPP in the Thai telecommunications industry. There is no doubt about the TOT’s significant contribution to the Thai telecommunications industry but because of the heavy bureaucratic procedure of the TSPP, the TOT in the past, was unable meet the target and the appropriate demand for Thailand.

The CAT’s TSPP and its relationship with a NTSPP suggests that there are some inconsistencies among the executives’ views and actions towards the roles and processes of the CAT of a NTSPP. It can be argued that there is no formal procedure for the development processes and implementation practices of the strategic planning at the national level. It is also seen from the case study of the CAT, that it has input at the national level planning, but the process of bringing the organisational TSPP to a NTSPP is lacking. Observations suggest that there is very little interaction among the telecommunications organisations in Thailand. The CAT’s role in a NTSPP suggest that it would provide guidance on the value added services requirements and provision of services. The CAT also has already provided and developed advanced telephone networks systems for the benefit of the Thai population. As a SOE, the CAT has the responsibility to submit its TSP to the MOTC and the NESDB. It is required by the Thai Government that all the government’s organisations TSP should be co-ordinated with the five year NESDP. In this regard, the CAT’s TSP would have obvious input into a NTSPP.

In relation to the role of the PTD in a NTSPP in Thailand, three major findings in regard to the PTD’s role at a NTSPP are suggested. First, is PTD’s role in a NTSPP in Thailand. Research reveals that there is also an enormous number of differences in the responses of the PTD executives in this regard. However, it can be seen from the three different views of the senior executives that the PTD is actively involved in providing guidance into a NTSPP. The primary role of the PTD is the study of the regulatory processes. The Thai Government has declared its intention to privatise the telecommunications industry in future. In this regard, the PTD is responsible for the study of the future regulation process and looking at different national regulatory experiences for drafting an informal version of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), the future regulatory body in Thailand.

Third, is the relationship of the PTD’s TSPP with a NTSPP in Thailand. It is revealed from the findings that a TSP of the PTD should be to conform to the Thai Government’s five year NESDP. Considering this, the PTD is responsible for coordinating and setting up mutual objectives and goals that match the NESDP. As a government organisation, the PTD also has to submit its TSP to the MOTC and the NESDB for formal approval. It can be seen from the above that the PTD’s TSPP has an impact on a NTSP. Lastly, is the problem of the strategic planning and practices and coupling the organisational level planning with the national telecommunications planning. It is observed from the case studies that the involvement process is very bureaucratic and seldom affects the organisational and national telecommunications infrastructure development planning agenda.

Some additional views were gathered from the MOTC and the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI). The MOTC particularly looked at the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) models and processes for the study of the establishment of a NTC in Thailand. The MOTC also looked at the models and processes from OFTEL, AUSTEL and NTT and KDD for making future regulatory decisions for Thailand. According to the Office of Communications Sub-Division of the MOTC, the PTD is, at present, using some of the models and processes from the NTT and the KDD of Japan. Vongpanitlerd from the TDRI, however suggested that there is no one particular model that is being used at present in the Thai telecommunications industry.

Findings from the interview with Vongpanitlerd suggest that the Thai telecommunications industry is at present suffering from lack of insight and proper planning knowledge in the area of telecommunications. Most of the Thai telecommunications organisations’ have not reached a stage of maturity at the planning level and some of the planning is done at the very lowest level without proper measurement or processes (Vongpanitlerd, 1996: in-depth interview). It can also be learnt that there is no planning done in a systematic way for telecommunications development in Thailand. It was indicated by Vongpanitlerd that the Thai telecommunications managers do not really look at the models and processes from the developing nations and sometimes are also unable to get hold of the published materials (Vongpanitlerd, 1996: in-depth interview).

The findings on the three organisations’ roles in a NTSPP revealed that the TOT, the CAT and the PTD are each responsible for the submission of their TSP to the MOTC and the NESDB. The two SOEs in Thailand are acting as service providers and regulators. The PTD are also acting as a regulator for radiocommunications in Thailand. It is observed from the case study of the Thai telecommunications that there are many overlapping functions among SOEs and the other Government organisations responsible for the development of a NTSP. The overlapping functions and unclear government policy on the roles of these organisations can be considered to be major impediments for a NTSPP.

Conclusions

It can be generalised from the TOT, the CAT, and the PTD’s case studies that the process has never been a key concern for the development of a TSP and there are many inconsistencies among the executives actions and views towards the development process of a TSP. It was argued in the theoretical background that strategic planning in the public sector and the bureaucratic nature of the SOEs, requires much attention on the planning processes. In this regard, Bryson argues that to have a successful strategic plan and implementation practices, it is necessary to have a consistent process of action upon which the strategic plan should be based on (Bryson, 1995:47; Charoenphol and Pientam, 1996: in-depth interview). The descriptive findings of the TOT, the CAT, and the PTD’s TSPP suggests that it is now time for them to develop and introduce a formalised TSPP for developing a consensus among their key planners and also to integrate the departmental functions.

The findings on the three organisation’s role in a NTSPP revealed that the TOT, the CAT and the PTD are responsible for the submission of its plan to the MOTC and NESDB. The two SOEs in Thailand are acting as a services provider and regulator and the PTD are also acting as a regulator for the radio communications in Thailand. It is observed from the case of the Thai telecommunications that there are overlapping functions among the SOEs and the other Government organisations responsible for the development of a NTSP. The overlapping functions and unclear government policy on the roles of these organisations can be considered to be the major impediments at a NTSPP. The roles of all these three organisations involved in the telecommunications infrastructure development are seems rather equivocal and aid in the processes of encumbering a NTSPP in Thailand.

It is also observed for the case of the Thai telecommunications that the government has not yet initiated a formalised procedure for the national actors roles and their relationships for the development of a national telecommunications infrastructure. Rather, evidence suggests that the Thai Government’s concern is more in nature of finding solutions for the immediate problems by initiating the urgent projects. The MOTC has largely failed to provide a strategic planning framework as a control mechanisms for maintaining an overall co-ordination and co-operation among the national telecommunications actors. It can however be argued that the basic telecommunications infrastructure is vital for the NII concept. It can also be seen that the complexity in government regulation, the rapid advancement of telecommunications technologies and the changes in the international marketplace requires a more formalised planning for exploting the strategic benefits from the products and services it offers. On the basis of the Thai case studies, it is concluded that the concept of the NII and incorporation of the GII, can only be materialised in reality, when nations like Thailand can have a NTSPP framework that supports as a backbone for the future developments of the NII as well as the GII.

Author’s Note: This article is based on a paper published in the CyberForum of International Telecommunications Union (ITU) 1997.

List of Acronyms

CAT Communications Authority of Thailand
ITU International Telecommunications Union
MP Master Plan
MOTC Ministry of Transport and Communications
MOST Ministry of Science and Technology
NTSPP National Telecommunications Strategic Planning Process
NTSP National elecommunications Strategic Plan
NESDB National Economic and Social Development Board

NTC

National Telecommunications Commission
PTD Post and Telegraph Department
SPP Strategic Planning Process
TSPP Telecommunications Strategic Planning Process
TSP Telecommunications Strategic Plan
TOT Telephone Organisation of Thailand
TA TelecomAsia Public Company Ltd.
TT&T Thai Telephone and Telecommunications
TDRI Thailand Development Research Institute
WTO World Trade Organisation


References

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  2. Alexander, E. 1992. Approaches to Planning: Introducing Current Planning Theories, Concepts and Issues. Second Edition. Gordon and Breach Science Publishers.
  3. Bryson, J.M. 1995. Strategic Planning for Public and Nonprofit Organisations: A Guide to Strengthening and Sustaining Organisational Achievement. Revises Edition. Jossey- Bass Publishers. San Francisco.
  4. Hossain, L., and Lindley, R. 1997. Meeting the Global Challenges: The Case of the Thai Telecommunications Regulators. Global Networking ’97: Interconnecting-Incorporating-Interfacing. June 15-17, 1997. pp. 88-94.
  5. TOT (Telephone Organisation of Thailand) Annual Report, 1991.
  6. CAT (Communications Authority of Thailand) Act. 1976.
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  10. Pientam, O. Executive Vice President. Office of the Corporate Affairs. The Telephone Organisation of Thailand. Face to face interview by Liaquat Hossain.
  11. Steiner, G.A. 1979. Strategic Planning. New York: Free Press.
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  17. Migliore, R., Stevens, R., Loudon, D., and Williamson, S. 1995. Strategic Planning for Not-for-Profit Organisations. The Haworth Press, Inc.
  18. Naylor, T. 1980. Strategic Planning Management. Planning Executive Institute. Oxford, Ohio 45056.
  19. Lorange, P. 1993. Strategic Planning and Control: Issues in the Strategy Process. Blackwell Publishers.
  20. Charoenphol, D. 1996. Senior Executive Vice President. Office of the Privatisation Affairs. The Telephone Organisation of Thailand. Face to face interview by Liaquat Hossain.
  21. Singhaseni, K. 1996. Acting Director. Telecommunications Business Development Division. The Communications Authority of Thailand (CAT). Face to face in-depth interview by Liaquat Hossain.
  22. Vongpanitlerd, S. 1996. Senior Research Fellow. Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI). Advisor to the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MOTC). Face to face in-depth interview by Liaquat Hossain.
  23. Tiancharoen, N. 1996. Chief. Communications Sub Division. Ministry of Transport and Communications (MOTC). Face to face in-depth interview by Liaquat Hossain.

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