Thai junta takes control of 900-MHz re-auction

13 Apr 2016

Thailand’s military junta has overruled the telecoms regulator for the 900-MHz auction, bringing it up one month to May 27, curtailing public debate on and possibly allowing TrueMove in for another chance to claim the entire 900-MHz band. The opening bid will be Jasmine’s winning bid of $2.1 billion (75.65 billion Baht). Jasmine failed to secure payment and defaulted, giving rise to the need for a new auction.

The junta, formally known as the National Council for Peace and Order, issued its 16th decree under article 44 of the interim constitution, commonly referred to as the absolute power clause. This means that the order is final and cannot be appealed in any court. The order was signed by Prime Minister General Prayut Chanocha in his capacity as NCPO chairman.

Earlier reports suggested that moving the auction up a month would mean there would be little or no public consultation as is required under the frequency act, though this was not made explicit in the order.

The NCPO also ordered the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission to amend the auction rules in order to ensure value for the country and healthy competition. Any changes will have to be agreed to by the NCPO. This puts the NCPO in direct control of the auction.

While again this was not explicit in the wording of the order, earlier reports suggested that the junta was keen to allow TrueMove to participate in the auction, despite an NBTC ruling to exclude TrueMove from the new auction by imposing a spectrum cap as it had already won half the 900-MHz band in the December auction.

The deadline for applying for the auction is May 18.

The NCPO also ordered TrueMove’s 900-MHz licence to be extended to match the new expiry date of the new licence.

The NCPO order allows AIS to continue using the 900-MHz spectrum for its 2G customers until June 30 or until the NBTC issues a new licence for the auction winner. AIS' 900-MHz was originally scheduled to be turned off in a couple of days on April 14.

AIS CEO Somchai Lertsutiwong thanked the NCPO for decisively using article 44 to settle the matter and to prevent 2G AIS customers from losing connectivity over the long weekend that is the Thai new year.

“The NCPO has truly returned happiness to the people. I want to shout at the top of my voice, ‘The government is acting in the best interests for the people’”, he said.

The AIS CEO said that the situation had changed and that the regulator has now made it clear that there would be no more cheap spectrum available, hence the starting price for the new bid is reasonable.

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