3G auction result approved; 4G options being studied

19 Oct 2012

The result of Thailand’s 2100MHz 3G mobile licence auction held on 16 October was yesterday approved by the telecoms committee of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), giving concession winners AIS, DTAC and True three months to make payment, with permits to be issued within seven days of receipt. NBTC commissioner Prasert Silphiphat revealed that four out of five committee members endorsed the result, which had been criticised for a lack of real competition as there were three bidders for three equal spectrum allocations.

With Thailand’s 3G licensing being so far behind many other countries, attention has already turned to 4G LTE development. Local newspaper The Nation quotes Jesada Sivaraks, secretary to the NBTC vice chairman, who stated that the final price in the 2.1GHz auction would be used as the basis for setting the reserve price for an 1800MHz spectrum sale in the near future; the reserve price for 1800MHz slots earmarked for 4G are expected to be higher than in the 2.1GHz sale. However, complications surround the potential 1800MHz auction as state-owned CAT Telecom is lobbying to retain its spectrum after the 1800MHz Build Transfer Operate (BTO) 2G concessions it granted to True and AIS subsidiary DPC end.

In the same report, an NBTC source indicated that AIS appeared to be eying 4G by bidding the highest prices for 2100MHz slots in order to secure the spectrum range immediately adjacent to that being currently used for 3G by its government-run BTO concession issuer TOT, which it has already partnered for 2G/3G infrastructure sharing and roaming. The regulatory source speculated that if 1800MHz licensing was delayed, AIS and TOT could collaborate to offer both 3G and 4G services on their combined 2100MHz bands, with the latter evolution utilising one-third of the frequencies. Jesada Sivaraks also acknowledged that the 2100MHz spectrum could technically be utilised to provide 4G services. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database says that TOT holds the 2×15MHz UMTS block in the paired range 1965MHz-1980MHz, 2155MHz-2170MHz; AIS this week won the neighbouring paired block 1950MHz-1965MHz, 2140MHz-2155MHz.