Thailand’s 3G auctions, expected to take place in the second quarter, could be delayed by at least two years, according to Wichien Mektrakarn, CEO of the country’s leading cellular operator, AIS.
His reported comments come in the wake of the Royal Household’s failure to approve the appointment of four new directors to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).
The Royal Household has asked the Prime Minister’s Office to “double check” the proposed NTC directors backgrounds, after it emerged that one of the nominees Col. Natee Sukolrat is under investigation by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).
The NTC was tipped to auction four 3G licenses in the second quarter, prior to the establishment of the country’s proposed unified regulator, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission.
AIS’s Wichien told the Bangkok Post that the country’s 3G auction may not take place until 2012 since it was unclear when the new NTC board would be ratified.
As such, AIS will further the rollout of its 3G service in partnership with the TOT.
On February 1, AIS intends to launch a 3G service in Bangkok using the TOT’s WCDMA/HSPA network at 1900 Mhz.
AIS has already rolled out 3G services using its existing 900 MHz spectrum in Chiang Mai, Chon Buri and Hua Hin.
“AIS does not want .to be seen to be falling behind [rival True Move which has launched 3G at 850 Mhz],” states investment bank Credit Suisse. “AIS management seem to understand that TOT’s 3G network is very weak and patchy even within Bangkok (500 base stations across Thailand, no in-building coverage).
“[AIS] customers are being clearly informed that use of 3G [data services in Bangkok]… is subject to TOT’s network performance.”