The board of Thailand’s National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has decided that it will award 3G mobile licences via an auction, scheduled for the third quarter of this year, reports The Nation. NTC secretary-general Suranan Wongvithayakamjorn said that a public auction is the most transparent method of frequency allocation, and one that has been adopted by many countries. The regulator must now conclude the auction terms and conditions, including minimum bid price, number of concessions, fee payment method and licence validity period, within the next two or three weeks, he said. Licensing terms of reference must be put to a public hearing. A pre-bidding conference will also be held to allow telecoms operators to learn more about the process. Suranan said the duration of the 3G permits should be at least ten years, and applicants should be Thai nationals. An NTC source recently said that four 2100MHz UMTS licences will be awarded, three with 10MHz of bandwidth and one 15MHz block. Some telecom operators have opposed using the auction method, because of the possibility of being outbid by cash-rich international firms. State-owned Thai Mobile is the only holder of 2100MHz spectrum in the country, but has failed to roll out services. Cellular market leader Advanced Info Service (AIS) launched a small scale commercial UMTS network in the 900MHz band in May 2008 and expanded the service to Bangkok in December. Second placed operator DTAC has proposed a limited launch of UMTS services using 850MHz frequencies, whilst third-ranked True Move plans to launch its first commercial 3G services in Bangkok this April, using 800MHz spectrum.