3G licensing likely to be delayed until next year

30 Jun 2009

The Bangkok Post quotes a spokesperson for Thailand’s National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) as saying that the issuing of 2.1GHz 3G mobile licences is likely to be delayed until the first quarter of next year. A public auction of four 3G licences had been expected by the end of this year, and potentially as early as October, following preparation work to be concluded by a US consultancy in the third quarter. However, Suranand Wongwittayakamjorn, secretary-general of the Office of the NTC, said that a new plan with a delayed timetable is being submitted to the NTC’s board for approval, whilst adding that regulations and policy guidelines, including the base price, terms and conditions for the auctions, should be released by mid-September. Suranand indicated that January 2010 would be the new target for beginning the auction, which is open to foreign bidders via local registered companies, but the exact timing would depend on the selection of new board members at the regulator.

The country’s three privately-owned GSM operators AIS, DTAC and True are hoping to roll out commercial 2.1GHz W-CDMA/HSPA services in the first half of 2010 but the possible delay would push this date back until later in the year. President of AIS, Wichian Mektrakarn, said that if 3G licensing is delayed further, AIS will incur a loan commitment fee for unused credit from banks, as it applied for THB10 billion (USD294 million) in loans to invest in 3G by the year-end. Vice-chairman of True Corp, Athueck Asvanund, said that commercial 3G services would be introduced around seven months after an auction. All three private operators are trialling 3G on a small-scale using 800MHz-900MHz frequencies, whilst state-owned TOT, the only 2.1GHz spectrum holder via subsidiary Thai Mobile, is planning to offer wholesale 3G capacity to the trio by the end of this year.