Five groups seeking to sink Thai 3G auction

Don Sambandaraksa
15 Oct 2012

What do muscular men in grey bunny suits complete with ears have to do with 3G?

I have no idea, but Thailand’s regulator, the NBTC has this weekend taken out banner ads with these macho bunnies in a defiant pose. These ads - linking to - are now everywhere as part of the run-up to the 2.1-GHz 3G auction on Tuesday.

Someone may have thought that bunny suits, the type worn in clean rooms, are the epitome of high-tech and something got lost in translation. Either that or in the eyes of the regulator, all people who use 3G have bunny costumes or other cosplay gear at home.

Rabbits aside, over the weekend the NBTC has been busy- by the end of Monday, it is understood that no less than five lawsuits will have been filed with the administrative court asking for an injunction on the auction.

On Saturday NBTC telecoms chair Setthapong Malisuwan was asked to defend his decision to run a game of musical chairs with three players and three chairs on a prime-time TV show.

He only said that even with four bidders for the 45MHz available, collusion could happen – bidders could collude to ensure the allocation goes 10-10-10-15. The answer seemed to satisfy the TV show’s host.

The regulator controversially reduced the spectrum cap from 20 MHz to 15 MHz with three incumbents, to prevent a 15-year duopoly with the spectrum going 20-20-5.

He defended the relatively low reserve price of $146 million (4.5 billion baht) per 5-MHz slot, saying it was a conscious decision to avoid the disasters of the UK and France. In these markets, sky-high bids caused trouble for the operators.

Colonel Setthapong said that the state did not have money to invest in telecommunications and thus the auction was to get private money to invest.

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