NBTC to lower proposed 3G spectrum cap: equal allocations for incumbents now likely

9 Aug 2012

Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has indicated that it will scrap a previously proposed individual wireless spectrum cap of 2×20MHz for the upcoming 2100MHz 3G mobile licence auction, and is likely to instead allow each bidder to buy a maximum of 2×15MHz. The information disclosed by a source at the NBTC, quoted by the Bangkok Post, means that all three incumbent private sector cellcos in Thailand – AIS, DTAC and True – should be able to acquire equal frequency allocations in the auction of 90MHz of bandwidth scheduled for October, as all reports suggest that the trio will face no foreign competition for the licences. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that the NBTC’s previous proposal (published in May) to allow bids for a maximum 2×20MHz allocation was aimed at ensuring competition for frequencies – i.e. avoiding the possibility of the three incumbent private cellcos ‘colluding’ to each buy 2×15MHz licences at minimum bid prices – or, in other words, maximizing the state’s revenue from the auction. With the apparent retraction of this proposal though, by reverting to the 2×15MHz 3G cap, the NBTC source said that ‘the reduction of the spectrum cap will ease the problem of market dominance and allow small bidders to participate.’ Settapong Malisuwan, chairman of the NBTC’s telecoms committee, said a final draft of the 3G auction information memorandum (IM) will be submitted to the regulator’s board for approval on 22 August, and hopefully published in the Royal Gazette by the end of the month.