Thai auction failure controversy rages on

Don Sambandaraksa
18 Oct 2012

Thailand’s telecom regulator has weathered a rough day, with criticism flying from all directions at the failure of the 2.1-GHz 3G auction.

With the auction yielding a tiny 2.8% premium over the reserve price, many have accused the commission of designing an auction that was doomed to failure.

NBTC commissioner Pravit Leesathapornwongsa announced he was going to vote against accepting the auction results.

Dr Pravit said that he did not believe the operators were colluding in the bid that saw six out of the nine slots go at the reserve price and only AIS ending up paying a tiny premium. However, he said that the design of the auction made the outcome inevitable.

However, this means that those who designed the auction might have broken the law under the public sector procurement act. He also said that he would be voting against accepting the auction results at the meeting later today (Thursday).

One question is whether the five-member telecoms board can issue the licences or not or whether it has to go to the full eleven-member board. Pravit said the telecoms board seems to think it can issue the licences itself, in which case only three votes would be needed for a majority.

Yet the NBTC secretariat says it has to go to the full board where there may be a higher chance of it being overturned, Pravit said.

Pravit added that the NBTC was heavily influenced by the operators, who were now becoming more and more blatant in their actions. He said one operator gave all eleven commissioners new iPhones last new year, and after questions were raised claimed it was not a bribe as everyone was given one.

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