Thai 4G bid goes on through the night

12 Nov 2015

The spectrum-starved operators in Thailand have waged a gruesome bidding war through the night which shows no sign of abating as the sun rises over Bangkok.

Thailand’s national broadcasting and telecommunications regulator finally put up two 15-MHz licences on 1800 for auction after a year-long delay following the coup d’etat.

The starting bid was 80% of the estimated price or $44.39 million (15,912 million baht) per licence.

Initially, each bid would see the price rise by 5% of the estimated price $11 million (398 million baht) until the price hits 100%, thereafter each increment would be 2.5% or $22 million (796 million baht). Each bidder has 4 waivers to sit out each round without ending the auction.

The four bidders, AIS, Dtac, True and Jasmine, started bidding at 10:20 AM on 11 November.

By 11:40 the price had reached 100% of the estimated price.

By 5 PM, the price of the two licences had reached 115% of the estimated price or over $128 million (4.6 billion baht). This adversely affected the share price of all four bidders. Jasmine fell 5.98% at the close of trading, Dtac 2.79%, True 1.96% and AIS 1.31%.

At 6:00 PM in the 25th round of bidding all waivers had been used and the price stood at 23,474 million baht (118%) and 24,668 million baht (124%) for the two licences.

At 8 PM the NBTC held an emergency meeting and said the bidding would continue and must finish before the night is over. The regulator scheduled a half hour dinner break whereby the bidders could have instant noodles after which the price continued to climb.

By 3:30 AM on 12th November, the price of one of the licences had hit 170% of the estimate and had broken the unsigned integer 65,535 million psychological barrier, joked AIS senior vice president Saran Phalopakarn.

At 4:20 a breakfast menu of eggs, bacon, toast and fruit juice was announced for breakfast. The NBTC ordered food for 300 people, enough to feed the staff, media and observers that had camped out overnight as well as the bidders. The price of the two licences by then had reached 6.64 billion baht.

Elsewhere the two injunction requests by the CAT and TOT unions are getting nowhere fast.

Newspapers have quoted sources saying the Director General of the Central Administrative Court has sent both injunctions to a panel of judges to rule whether each is a matter for the administrative court or not. The TOT injunction request for the 15 December 900-MHz auction, filed on 4 November, was ordered for review on 10 November and the CAT injunction filed on 10 November for the 11 November 1800-MHz auction was only allocated for review on 11 November.

In both cases, the judges will only rule whether the case is filed at the right court and not whether the court will accept the case or if an injunction should be granted which means that by the time a ruling is made, it is likely to be too late.

CAT sued the telecoms regulator in 2013 over ownership of the 1800-MHz band and has asked the administrative court to grant an injunction until the case has run its course.

Meanwhile, speaking at 4 AM, NBTC Secretary-General Takorn Tantasit said that the high price of the auction would not affect the price paid by users.

With regard to the 20 MHz 1800-MHz 4G licence that the regulator had granted to state-telco CAT Telecom on 10 November in an attempt to avert CAT filing for an injunction to the auction, Takorn said that CAT could submit documents arguing why the licence should be extended beyond 15 September 2018, the date the CAT-Dtac concession ends, and that the regulator would consider them in due course.

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