Thailand playing catch-up in 3G

James Robinson/Ovum
26 Nov 2012

A decade after most countries awarded 3G licenses on the 2.1-GHz band, Thailand has finally taken its first steps to catch up with them, conducting its own auction of frequencies in this band.

In October 2012 the National Broadcasting and Telecoms Commission (NBTC) auctioned 45 MHz of spectrum to three mobile operators.

The auction raised only a fraction above the minimum price, and the Ministry of Finance has since issued a complaint to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), claiming that the auction was illegal and calling for a new sale to take place. The Office of the Ombudsman has also filed a lawsuit to prevent the licenses from being issued.

Although 3G is no longer a new technology, Thailand lags behind many of its Asian counterparts in terms of the availability of mobile broadband services. Licenses for 3G were supposed to be auctioned back in 2005, but political unrest and legal battles have prevented the sale from taking place.

The mobile market is reaching saturation point, and operators are keen to launch 3G in order to increase service revenues. Unfortunately, licenses cannot be officially issued until the NACC investigation is completed, which may result in a further delay to this drawn-out saga.

Belated 3G auction raises little above reserve price

On October 17, 2012 the NBTC completed the long-awaited auction of 3G licenses at 2.1-GHz. Thailand’s three leading mobile operators won spectrum with an aggregate bid of 41.63 billion baht ($1.36 billion). Advanced Info Service (AIS), Digital Total Access Communication (DTAC), and True were the only three operators to have entered valid applications, and each came away with the maximum 2×15MHz of spectrum, which will be available for a 15-year period.

The result was endorsed by four out of five NBTC committee members. The licensees have three months from the date of the auction to make their payments, with the licenses being issued within seven days of receipt.

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