3G licensing draft approved by regulator’s committee; 4G trials okayed

16 May 2012

A committee of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) yesterday approved Thailand’s draft licence auction framework for the 2100MHz 3G mobile frequency band, reports the Bangkok Post. Under the draft, the regulator will divide available 2100MHz bandwidth into nine 5MHz blocks, scrapping an earlier framework based on the ‘N-1’ model which would have made available a number of licences equal to the number of bidders minus one. The NBTC said the removal of this condition is aimed at promoting a level playing field under the Frequency Allocation Act. Another condition that would require the winners to list on the Stock Exchange of Thailand three years before entering the auction will also be scrapped under the draft. However, a reserve price for licences has not yet been agreed on. The draft will be submitted to the NBTC board for approval next month, ahead of a public hearing within the next two months, with the auction scheduled for around September. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that state-run TOT remains the country’s sole holder of 2100MHz spectrum, and the two largest cellcos, AIS and DTAC, are forced to offer 3G services in lower frequencies under their existing revenue-sharing build-transfer-operate (BTO) concessions with TOT and sister telco CAT respectively, whilst the third private operator, True, operates 850MHz HSPA-based 3G services outside of the BTO framework via a series of wholesale/resale contracts with CAT which have attracted widespread allegations of non-transparency and are undergoing political and legal scrutiny set to drag on for years. The upcoming 2100MHz concessions will be issued as full network operating licences, and will permit 3G and 4G operations.

In another development reported by the Post, the NBTC’s telecom committee yesterday said that DTAC and True could proceed with 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile trials on existing 1800MHz frequencies. AIS had previously been given permission for 4G trials using its existing 900MHz frequencies.