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Indonesia's tax dispute with Google continues; Australia to sell off spectrum

In this biweekly Asia-Pacific Regulatory Spotlight feature, S&P Global Market Intelligence provides a roundup of significant recent regulatory events in the Asia-Pacific region.

TOP NEWS

* Indonesia threatened to take legal action against Google Inc. if it does not hand over a transaction report for a government probe into the tech giant's unpaid taxes, Tempo.co reported Jan. 17. The Alphabet Inc. unit's transaction data would be used to determine the amount Google must pay in the country. The Indonesian tax directorate expects Google to submit the data by the end of January.

* The Australian Communications and Media Authority opened the application process for its 700 MHz spectrum auction set to take place in April, ZDNet reported Jan. 16. Under the terms of the ACMA's auction guide, the spectrum will be sold in two lots, with a starting price of A$571.8 million for the first lot of 2x10 MHz and A$285.9 million for the second lot of 2x5 MHz.

PAN-ASIAN NEWS

* The U.S. Federal Communications Commission approved a landing license for the Southeast Asia-U.S. submarine cable system, co-owned and operated by Hawaiian Telcom Holdco Inc., according to a Jan. 15 news release.

JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

* The Korea Communications Commission (KCC) launched an investigation into South Korea's three major telcos — SK Telecom Co. Ltd., KT Corp. and LG Uplus Corp. — which are suspected of providing distributors with more subsidies for foreign subscribers than for Korean nationals, Digital Times reported Jan. 19.

* The Seoul Central District Court denied prosecutors' request to arrest Samsung Group heir apparent Lee Jae-yong on allegations of bribery, embezzlement and perjury in connection with South Korea's presidential corruption scandal, The Korea Herald reported Jan. 19.

* The KCC announced that it will improve its regulatory system to include over-the-top content and video-on-demand services, ZDNet Korea reported Jan. 6.

CHINA, HONG KONG AND TAIWAN

* The Chinese government plans to open the country's telecommunications industry to private investment, Reuters reported Jan. 16, citing a notice issued by the CPC Central Committee and State Council.

* China is requiring app stores to register with its internet regulator, The Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 16. The order by the Cyberspace Administration of China follows tightened guidelines for app developers in the country.

* The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television will not license "Pokémon Go" or other augmented reality games until potential security risks have been evaluated, Reuters reported Jan. 10.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

* Members of the lower house of the Philippine Congress approved bills to extend the franchises of mobile provider Smart Communications and TV broadcaster GMA Network for another 25 years each, BusinessMirror reported Jan. 16. They were then submitted to the Senate for deliberations.

* Thailand's National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission ruled that telco Advanced Info Service Public Co. Ltd. owes 7.22 billion baht for using the 900 MHz spectrum band from Oct. 1, 2015, to May 30, 2016, Krungthep Turakij reported Jan. 12.

* Thailand's Broadcasting Committee announced an amendment to its new regulation that requires mobile operators to calculate cellular fees by the second, Prachachat reported Jan. 11. By-the-second packages must now make up at least 50% of every operator's offers.

* The Indonesian Ministry of Communication and Informatics will cooperate with the Indonesian Press Council to implement a barcode authentication system to verify the credibility of local news sites, Liputan6 reported Jan. 8.

* The Philippines' Securities and Exchange Commission approved the 2-billion-peso block sale of a 53.76% stake in gaming technology provider PhilWeb Corp. from founder Roberto Ongpin to Gregorio Araneta Inc., BusinessWorld reported Jan. 7.

AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

* Telstra Corp. Ltd. won a legal battle against an appeal filed by the Australian Privacy Commissioner, allowing the telco to retain its metadata instead of handing it over to customers upon request, Computerworld Australia reported Jan. 19. The Australian Full Federal Court decided to uphold a decision made by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which ruled that metadata associated with a customer's mobile service does not constitute "personal information" about an individual.

INDIA AND SOUTH ASIA

* The Competition Commission of India greenlit Sony Pictures Television Inc. unit Sony Pictures Networks India's US$385 million acquisition of Taj Television, Television Post reported Jan. 19. The sports broadcasting subsidiary of Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. holds channels under the TEN Sports brand.

* The Supreme Court of India sent notices to the central government and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, as well as Facebook Inc. and WhatsApp Inc., regarding a plea seeking data privacy, Asian News International reported Jan. 16.

* India's attorney general said that telcos Bharti Airtel Ltd., Vodafone India and Idea Cellular can be fined for poor service quality, the Press Trust of India reported Jan. 12. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had recommended that the Department of Telecom impose fines of 10.5 billion rupees each on Vodafone and Airtel, and 9.5 billion rupees on Idea.