Thailand’s communications regulator the National Telecoms Commission (NTC) said yesterday that it will issue three 2100MHz mobile licences in September, encompassing 3G and next generation so-called ‘3.9G’ (or ‘4G’) services such as Long Term Evolution (LTE), reports The Nation newspaper. NTC’s 3G licensing plans have been repeatedly delayed, whilst it previously announced that it would auction four licences; the new plan envisages the award of three 15MHz bandwidth concessions, valid for 15 years, instead of the previously mooted three 10MHz licences alongside one ‘premium’ 15MHz concession. The watchdog hopes that commercial 2100MHz services can be launched under the new licences by the end of this year, whilst a spokesperson said that the current political unrest is unlikely to affect the licensing timetable. Natee Sukonrat, chairman of the NTC’s committee for next generation mobile licensing, said the regulator would put the licensing plan to a public hearing over the next two months and then begin the process of pre-qualifying applicants in August. He added that the NTC would move ahead with the auction despite the fact that the law governing the establishment of the National Broadcasting & Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to replace the NTC is still being formulated. The Senate recently finished the first reading of the NBTC bill. The 3G committee will present the licensing plan for NTC board approval on 4 June. Licence winners will be obliged to allocate 40% of 2100MHz network capacity for leasing to mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). State-owned TOT launched the country’s first and only 2100MHz 3G services in Bangkok last December using the MVNO model. 3.9G is a term that has been used to describe LTE services in some countries such as Japan, as 4G mobile technology standards are yet to be officially defined.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that in October 2010 three of the NTC members’ terms end: the regulator must finalise the process of awarding 2100MHz 3G licences before then, or else the auction will suffer further delays.