TrueMove backs out of 900-MHz auction

17 May 2016

Thai mobile operator TrueMove has decided not to participate in the upcoming 900-MHz auction on May 27 after all.

The decision was made public late last night in a leaked filing to the stock market regulator. Dtac had already announced it was not participating, which would likely leave AIS as the sole bidder in the auction.

The auction for 10 MHz of 900-MHz spectrum will start at $2.1 billion, the last price by Jasmine in the December auction before it forfeited its deposit after being unable to raise funds to pay for the licence.

The letter to the Securities Exchange Commission said that following the board’s meeting on May 16, True’s board has decided not to participate in the auction. True already has enough high frequency spectrum for capacity (on 1800 and 2100-MHz) and low frequency spectrum for coverage (850 via CAT and 900) to meet demand. True has a total of 55 MHz of spectrum which is enough for 2G, 3G and 4G services.

Just days earlier at a panel organized by Thailand’s IT Press Club NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasit strenuously defended “his” decision to include True in the auction. “I have listened to every side of the argument. Whatever decision I make, it is possible I will be investigated and may face jail,” he said.

Takorn also announced at the ITPC panel that AIS had decided to participate in the auction.

Takorn had indeed decided to include True, but that decision was overturned by the NBTC board on spectrum cap grounds. The NBTC board in turn was overturned by the junta using article 44, the absolute power clause, in the interim constitution.

Junta order 16/2559 section one paragraph 3 clearly states that the NBTC is to hold the auction in a way that is fair for the benefit to the state and to the people or to ensure competition. In order to do so the NBTC may amend any regulations needed but it has to report to, and receive authorization from, the leader of the national council for peace and order.

The leader of the NCPO is Prime Minister General Prayut Chanocha.

With Dtac firmly against participating in the auction at the elevated price, the need for a competition was used to overturn the NBTC board and allow True back in for more 900-MHz spectrum.

Prime Minister and Junta leader Prayut Chanocha is currently in Russia so any decision is likely to be deferred until he gets back.

All eyes are now on AIS which is understood to be convening its board to make a decision today (May 17) whether or not to participate in the auction.

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