After a gruelling 33-hour auction without any rest or sleep, AIS and True emerged exhausted but victorious each winning a coveted 1800-MHz 4G licence.
In the end, the Thai government raked in over $2.25 billion (80,788 million baht) with True paying $1.11 billion (39,792 million Baht) and AIS paying $1.14 billion (40,986 million baht) for the valuable 18-year, 15 MHz 1800-MHz licences.
This was 206% of the NBTC’s estimated price for the 30 MHz of spectrum that was put on the table.
Three years ago the 2100-MHz 3G auction saw three 15-MHz licences go for $1.35 billion (41,650 million baht) for all 45-MHz.
The surprise of the night came when the bids were made public. Dtac had dropped out almost at the beginning with a maximum bid of just $488 million (17,504 million baht) and it was True, AIS and new entrant Jasmine (better known for its fixed line broadband network under the brand 3BB) that battled it out without rest nor sleep.
Dtac of course last week launched its own 1800-MHz LTE network on its concessionary spectrum that expires in 2018. The operator also has 10 MHz of 850-MHz 3G that also ends in 2018.
AIS has no spectrum at all now except 15 MHz of 2100 so for the Singtel-owned telco it was obviously do or die - but considering TrueMove’s considerable long-term spectrum bank on 850 and 2100, the outcome came as a surprise for many.
Jasmine’s final bid was 38,996 million baht.
Each bid would increment the price by $22 million (796 million baht).
The telecoms regulator initially ordered a break at 5:30 PM for the bidders to get some sleep in rooms in the NBTC office under armed guard so they could not communicate, and the auction was supposed to recommence at 10 AM on Friday 13th. However, this break was cancelled at 5:45 and the auction ended at 7:05 PM.
AIS and True will have to pay 50% of the auction fee within 90 days of the official confirmation of the winning bid; 25% in two years+15 days of being awarded the licences and 25% in 3 years+15 days. Licencees must provide 40% coverage in four years and prices must not be higher than current 2.1-GHz 3G prices.