Amended Telecommunication Law – Lao PDRMay 24, 2022
The Law on Telecommunications (Amended) No. 05/NA dated 16 November 2021 (the “Telecom Law 2021”) has replaced the previous Law on Telecommunications (Amended) No. 09/NA dated 21 December 2011 following its publication in the Official Gazette of the Lao PDR on 23 March 2022. However, Telecom Law 2021 has not been implemented in practice as of this date. The revamped provisions of the Telecom Law 2021 are intended to facilitate the ease of doing telecommunications businesses and increase the administrative efficiency of the telecommunications sector. Of particular note are the amendments to the telecommunications business types and the licensing provisions, which are stipulated under Part V of the Telecom Law 2021.
Telecommunications business activities
Telecommunications business activities are now broadly categorized into two types:
- Telecommunications services
- Telecommunications facilities
1. Telecommunications services
Telecommunications service business activities cover all types of telecommunications services, including the following:
- Wire and wireless telecommunication services
- Internet services
- Satellite services
Telecommunications service providers (“TSPs”) can be either traditional network operators with their own telecommunications infrastructure or virtual network operators (“VNOs”) who don’t have their own telecommunications infrastructure.
2. Telecommunications facilities
Telecommunications facilities business activities are those auxiliary business activities that are required to be able to either provide or use telecommunications services:
- Telecommunications infrastructure leasing
- Telecommunications equipment installation, maintenance, and repair services
- Manufacturing and trading of telecommunications equipment
- Export and import of telecommunications equipment
- Telecommunications business consultancy services
Foreigners are allowed to invest 100% in telecommunications business activities in the Lao PDR by incorporating a legal entity in the form of a limited liability company (“LLC”).
Once incorporated, a telecommunications company must apply for all licenses and complete all compliance requirements under Lao law within 90 days from obtaining the enterprise registration certificate from the Department of Enterprise Registration and Management, Ministry of Industry and Commerce.
1. Investment licensing
Since telecommunications business activities fall under the “concession business list” as stipulated in the Decree on the Controlled Business List and the Concession List of the Lao PDR No. 03/PM dated 10 January 2019, investors are required to apply for an investment license with the One-Stop-Service Office (OSSO), Ministry of Planning and Investment before applying for a specific business license for operating a telecommunications business activity.
The validity of the investment term for all telecommunications businesses is 15 years and can be renewed by applying at least six months before the expiry of the investment term.
2. Business licensing
In addition to an investment license, investors also must obtain a business license from the Ministry of Technology and Communications to operate each type of telecommunications business activity (see above).
A business license is valid for one year and needs to be renewed annually by applying at least 30 days before its expiry. The Telecom Law 2021 now expressly stipulates the grounds for suspension and termination of a telecommunications business license. For instance, violation of any applicable Lao laws by a telecommunication company is a ground for suspension of its business license.
The following documents are required to apply for a business license:
- Application (in the format provided by the Ministry of Technology and Communications)
- A copy of the investment license
- Copies of the enterprise registration certificate and bylaws of the LLC incorporated in the Lao PDR
- Details of the investor-cum-shareholder of the LLC
- A business plan together with a financial plan and a technical and economic feasibility study for operating the telecommunications business
In addition, before any installation of telecommunications equipment, TSPs must obtain a permit from the technology and communications sectoral authority. The radio spectrum for telecommunications purposes is now revised to be within the frequency range of 8.3 kilohertz to 3,000 gigahertz. The allocation and use of the radio spectrum are stipulated under the Law on Radio Frequency No. 17/NA dated 5 May 2017.
Apart from Telecom Law 2021, there are a number of specific legislations that govern the telecommunications business operation in the Lao PDR. They are as follows:
- Law on Information and Communication Technology No. 02/NA dated 07 November 2016
- Law on the Protection of Electronic Data No. 25/NA dated 12 May 2017
- Law on High Technology No. 07/NA dated 16 November 2021
- Decree on Satellite Communications No. 471/PMO dated 27 December 2019
- Decision on Consumer Protection for Telecommunications and Internet Services No. 1061/MPT dated 25 May 2020
- Decision on Business Operating Licenses for Internet Services No. 3972/MPT dated 13 December 2019
- Decision on ICT Installation and Repair Services No. 2234/MPT dated 10 July 2017
- Decision on the Import and Distribution of ICT Equipment No. 3201/MPT dated 16 November 2016
- Decision on Approval to Operate an Internet Data Center No. 590/MPT dated 18 March 2016
- Decision on the Installation of Mobile Network Base Stations No. 209/MPT dated 5 February 2016
- Instruction on Telecommunications Business Operating License No. 2225/MPT dated 15 August 2018
The above legislations will remain in effect barring any inconsistency with the provisions of the Telecom Law 2021.
This article is intended to provide an overview of the amended telecommunications law of the Lao PDR for general purposes only and therefore, the contents herein must not be construed as legal advice or as a substitute for legal advice for any specific matter or situation.
For more information on the regulatory changes in the Lao telecom sector, or any other queries about the legal and regulatory environment in the Lao PDR, please feel free to contact us at the VDB Loi Laos office: Daodeuane Duangdara ([email protected]), Sornpheth Douangdy ([email protected]), or Sibasish Mohapatra ([email protected]).
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