Thai 4G watch: CAT agrees to release 5 MHz of 1800

25 Sep 2015

Thailand’s ICT Minister Uttama Savanayana has announced the return of an extra 5 MHz of spectrum from state-owned CAT Telecom to make it two 15 MHz 1800-MHz 4G licenses in the upcoming 11 November auction.

Uttama said that he would be writing to regulator the national broadcasting and telecommunications commission immediately with the good news.

The 5 MHz comes out of a 25 MHz chunk off the top of that 1800-MHz spectrum that was used by Dtac until 2006 when it was recalled by CAT Telecom and has been idle ever since.

No details were given on how the 30 MHz would be made contiguous as the current map would put it as 12.5 MHz (for auction) 25 MHz (Dtac), 17.5 MHz (for auction) 20 MHz (idle).

Dtac initially offered to move down in order to make the block contiguous in exchange for being able to run a 4G network on its 1800-MHz concession. That offer was slammed as insincere and thrown out by the regulator.

Dtac and CAT later offered to move up in exchange for 5 MHz to be thrown into the pot, a move that was endorsed by the NBTC, but thrown out by the MICT with Uttama saying that it was impossible to implement in the limited time before the auction soon after he became ICT Minister in August.

Now with one week before the deposits for the auction are due, Uttama has again changed the rules of the auction.

Last week, Dtac was given permission to run a 4G LTE network on its 1800-MHz concession without any strings attached.

Then this week, CAT and Dtac offered to return 5 MHz of spectrum without any strings attached.

It is widely expected that the next step will be awarding CAT Telecom a free 4G license on the remaining 20 MHz of unused spectrum with no strings attached either.

Dtac was contacted and asked whether the company had just invested in a brand new LTE network under the current Build-Transfer-Operate concession with CAT Telecom with just three years to go and whether they still had to pay the hefty 30% revenue share. The company declined to comment.

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