True, Jasmine win 87-hour 900-MHz bid for $4.2b

After 87 hours of bidding, Jasmine and True emerged victorious in the 4G auction that netted the Thai government a staggering $4.2 billion (151.95 billion baht), with each operator securing a coveted 900-MHz licence.

The auction which started at 9 AM on 15 December ended after 199 rounds at a quarter past midnight on 19 December.

Jas Mobile, under the Jasmine group, better known for its fixed line network 3BB, paid 75.65 billion Baht while TrueMove H Universal paid 76.29 billion for the upper block.

Dtac had dropped out at 70 billion leaving AIS to battle it out until they gave up 5 billion later.

DTAC CEO Lars Norling told reporters that the company would use the money saved to develop its existing 850, 1800 and 2100 networks further.

However, Dtac’s 850 and 1800 networks expire along with its concession in 2018. The Telenor subsidiary only has 15 MHz on 2100 in the long run, leading to speculation about the company’s future. Dtac originally called a press conference on Monday 21 December but postponed it at the last moment.

900-MHz incumbent AIS is in a much better position having won last month’s 1800-MHz auction for 15 MHz and also striking a deal with TOT for use of its 15-MHz of 2100-MHz alongside its own 15-MHz slice of 2100. AIS has sent out trucks with messages that their 900-MHz 2G network will be turned off on Monday and that unless its remaining customers transfer themselves to the new 3G network, their SIMs will be deactivated.

TrueMove now has the most spectrum of all the operators going forward with 15 MHz on 2100, 15 MHz on 1800, 10 of 900 and also 15 on 850 under the a fudge with CAT.

In a television interview, True executives put a new spin on the situation, saying that they were always after the top block as the lower block only had 7.5 MHz really usable as 2.5 of that amount was a guard band. Thus only 5 MHz could be used for data services.

Payment for the licences will be 50% of the reserve price, then 25%, 25% and the remainder each year thereafter. This means that the two telcos will have to pay only 8 billion baht to get their licences, then 4 billion in 2016, 4 billion in 2017 and 60 billion in 2018.

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