A total of eight companies representing five domestic mobile service providers bought bid documents for Thailand’s 2100MHz 3G licence auction scheduled for 28-29 September when the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) opened the application process yesterday, the Bangkok Post reports. The applicants are Advanced Info Service (AIS) and subsidiary AWN; Total Access Communication (DTAC) and subsidiary DTAC Internet Service; True Corp’s mobile division True Move and another of its group units SK Wireless; Samart I-Mobile; and Loxley. Samart I-Mobile and Loxley provide 3G services as mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) over the 2100MHz/1900MHz network of state-run TOT, whilst nationwide 2G network operators AIS, DTAC and True are all currently offering limited-coverage ‘trial’ or ‘pre-commercial’ 800MHz-900MHz UMTS-based services under their existing build-transfer-operate (BTO) concession agreements. Loxley revealed that it is holding discussions with an Asia-based company that saw good potential in the local mobile market for a joint venture bid for a wireless broadband licence. Loxley would hold at least 51% in the proposed new subsidiary set up for the bid; the start-up investment would be at least THB30 billion (USD940 million). According to the report, Samart is looking at forming a Thai 3G joint venture with Malaysian partner Axiata or another Asian telecom firm this month, if its feasibility study – due this week – concludes that the 3G investment is worth the high investment required. Jasmine International, the parent of Thai provincial fixed line operator TT&T, is also said to be interested in launching a 3G licence bid, but was not on the initial list of applicants.
Companies can buy the documents until 29 August and must submit their bid proposals by 30 August, although the NTC itself admitted that major foreign interest was unlikely, due to repeated and frequent delays in the process and uncertainty about licensing terms. The Senate Telecommunications Commission has voiced opposition to the NTC’s 3G auction so long as the outcome of proposals to convert 2G BTO concessions to full licences remains unclear. The Senate panel also recommended that 3G licences should cost at least THB30 billion instead of the THB12.8 billion set by the NTC, but all recommendations were rejected by the regulator.