3G mobile licences will be auctioned in a process starting in October, according to the chairman of Thailand’s National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), Choochart Promprasit. A framework for awarding four UMTS licences, plus WiMAX spectrum in the 5GHz band, would be completed by September, he said. The three main GSM operators AIS, DTAC and True Move, currently restricted to using 2.5G technologies including EDGE, have argued that they should be given priority in bidding for third-generation concessions, but the regulator has given no indication as to whether it will hold a straight auction, with the licences offered to the highest bidders, or a ‘beauty contest’ in which the bidders’ qualifications, experience and technological platforms are taken into account. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, the finalisation of an UMTS licensing framework has been delayed by legislation stating that the NTC cannot allocate spectrum alone and, instead, must wait for the establishment of fledgling regulatory authority the National Broadcasting Commission, which is being set up to take joint responsibility for wireless frequency allocation under a programme to liberalise the broadcasting sector. However, an August 2006 decision by the Council of State – the government department responsible for law reform – stated that UMTS licensing should be the sole responsibility of the NTC. Currently, the only company licensed to provide UMTS services is state-owned minor GSM player Thai Mobile, as it was awarded suitable spectrum in the 1900MHz range prior to the establishment of the NTC. ‘We will try to have all the issues finalised by September, to allow the industry to move forward starting this October. We see four 3G licences being awarded altogether,’ General Choochart said.