Vultures circle NBTC after 3G auction fiasco

19 Oct 2012
Thailand’s regulator has defiantly approved the 2.1-GHz 3G auction with a 4:1 vote - despite almost universal criticism over the process - paving the way for licences to be issued within 90 days.
That is, if the commission is not suspended first due to a growing mountain of lawsuits and inquests.
As expected, commissioner Pravit Leesathapornwongsa voted against accepting the auction results, with the paltry 2.8% premium over the reserve price, saying it was an auction that was fixed by design and thus illegal under the public sector procurement act.
Doctor Pravit asked to see the bidding logs and quickly made the bidding public.
In the first round, True and AIS had put down bids for 15 MHz each but Dtac had only put down a bid for 10 MHz. Dtac held out until the sixth round before putting down a bid for its third slot. True and Dtac got all their slots at the reserve price.
However, more intriguing was that AIS had bid for its three slots and raised the bid to out-bid itself, with no competition, not once, but twice.
With 45 MHz up for grabs and a spectrum cap lowered to 15 MHz, everyone but the NBTC predicted that there would be no incentive to bid high; that it was akin to playing a game of musical chairs with three players and three chairs.
Pravit has declared war on his fellow commissioners, accusing them of being bought over by big money and accusing the commission of abusing its powers as media regulator by censoring news and banning certain individuals from NBTC-owned airwaves. The broadcasting side of the NBTC has far-reaching powers on licensing of radio and TV stations.
Quite how this will play out is unclear. The telecoms sub-board thinks it can issue the licences itself without going to the full 11-member board, but Dr Pravit argues that the telecom board can only approve the auction while actual licence issuing must be done by the full board. With such allegations it is clear that Dr Pravit wants the entire NBTC disbanded and so, it seems, do many others.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance has sent a letter to the counter corruption commission asking them to investigate the NBTC for collusion in fixing the auction.
The same ministry has issued a letter to the NBTC reminding them that any procurement over 2 million baht ($65,000) must be open and competitive. However, the letter said the NBTC auction of 16 October had low bidding activity and the frequency on offer was shared equally among bidders without competition. The letter warned that the NBTC commissioners could be held responsible for collusion, and asked the board to reconsider the results.

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