Thai 3G auction heating up

Don Sambandaraksa
25 Sep 2012
Daily News

Thailand’s 2.1-GHz 3G auction is heating up, with many fiber backhaul and broadband providers applying for the auction.

A total of 16 companies have applied for the auction documents. Nine slots of 5 MHz, totalling 45 MHz is up grabs in the auction, scheduled for October 16-18. But many of these are just subsidiaries. For instance, TrueMove, Real Futures and RealMove - all part of True corporation - are listed among the 16.

More interesting are names like Jasmin (twice over) and Symphony which are major players in the country’s fibre backhaul market.

ACT Mobile, the GSM 1900 subsidiary of TOT is also bidding, but it unclear how they would be able to as TOT already has 15 MHz and the regulator has set a spectrum cap of 15 MHz. When the spectrum cap was at 20 MHz, much of the IM was devoted to companies with existing 2,100-MHz (TOT) and how they could bid up to the spectrum cap.

If the fibre players are serious about bidding for a 3G licence, this could throw things way open and pave the way for real competition. An operator with 5 MHz of spectrum would be subject to much more lenient roll-out requirements and will be able to roam onto the major networks.

One financial analyst said that he expected the auction to go for a small premium over the reserve and for the three incumbents to grab all the spectrum once the others dropped out.

Meanwhile, AIS has expressed concern with the thinning of the board at its concession holder state-owned TOT. Eight appointed board members including the chairman resigned earlier due to political infighting, but not before making allegations of massive, well-connected corruption with the existence of a rogue exchange injecting traffic into TOT’s network. Five board members representing various state agencies remain.

AIS CEO Vichien Mektrakarn said that the lack of a functioning board might affect ongoing negotiations on the continued use of 900-MHz spectrum and equipment after AIS concession ends in 2015.

He called for clarity whether the spectrum had to be returned to TOT or to the regulator for re-allocation.

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