Supreme Court upholds 3G auction freeze

23 Sep 2010

Thailand’s 3G mobile licence auction remains suspended after this morning’s decision from the Supreme Administrative Court, which upheld the Central Administrative Court’s temporary injunction ordering the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to freeze the auction process, which had been due to start on Monday. As reported by the Bangkok Post, the judge today said: ‘The NTC must put on hold the 3G licence auction until this court case is over or the court’s order is otherwise changed.’ The injunction was issued after state-run CAT Telecom submitted a petition claiming that the NTC lacks the authority to issue 2100MHz frequency concessions. If the Constitution Court also agrees with CAT then the 3G licensing must wait until a new regulator, the National Broadcasting & Telecoms Commission (NBTC), is formed. The government has said it will step up efforts to push through the Frequency Allocation Bill, which will enable the NBTC to be set up and clear the path for a 3G auction early next year. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said a government whip will work to ensure the Bill receives parliamentary approval so that the process to select NBTC commission members can begin by year’s end or in early 2011.

TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database says that, in the meantime, state-run TOT (which also submitted a petition against the auction), remains the sole 2100MHz 3G operator, over a HSPA-based network restricted to Bangkok with capacity of around half a million users, hosting five 3G MVNOs. Privately-owned cellcos AIS, DTAC and True Move provide limited 3G services over 800MHz-900MHz frequencies under their revenue-sharing agreements with TOT and CAT, which both say they stand to lose an unacceptable level of turnover from the award of full individual operating licences to private companies. CAT provides 3G CDMA2000 1xEV-DO-based mobile data services in outlying provinces and plans soon to take over and expand joint venture Hutch’s underdeveloped EV-DO network across the capital and central areas of the country.