With one week to go, Thailand’s regulator has confirmed that the three incumbent operators have passed qualification and can participate in the long-overdue 2.1-GHz 3G auction on 16th October.
Advance Wireless Networks (a subsidiary of AIS), Dtac Networks and Real Future (TrueMove) have been declared as compliant to the 3G bid documents by the full 5-member telecom board headed by Setthapong Malisuwan.
Colonel Setthapong reiterated that despite there being just three bidders, 45 MHz available and a 15-MHz spectrum cap there will still be enthusiastic bidding as the operators race to be the first to be able to choose their slots. This is despite vendor comments that there is no meaningful difference between slots within the same 2.1-GHz band.
He said that the actions of the bidders on the day of the auction will be examined for any collusion attempts.
Previously Colonel Setthapong had come under heavy criticism by reducing the spectrum cap from 20 MHz to 15 MHz, effectively nullifying any incentive to bid more than the reserve price. He insisted that there would be new entrants to liven up the auction, but none applied.
However, later today, independent academic Anuparp Teeralarp is expected to file a request with the administrative court for an injunction to halt the 3G auction.
Dr Anuparp cites four areas that must be addressed before an auction can take place - the 3G bid does not have quality of service targets; the NBTC has no control over data pricing; no clauses in inclusion of the poor or those in rural areas; and the NBTC has not made it clear how revenue from the auction will be channelled back into helping people or how much will be returned to public coffers.