Thailand to launch 4G auction on 11 November, but regulator increases reserve price

24 Aug 2015

Reuters reports that Thailand’s telecoms regulator, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), intends to kick start its long-anticipated fourth generation mobile spectrum auction on 11 November 2015, but that it is raising the minimum reserve price for an 1800MHz licence by 14% to THB15.91 billion (USD446 million) from the previous draft level of THB13.9 billion. NBTC vice president Settapong Malisuwan confirmed the plans to open applications for bids for two technology-neutral licences of 15MHz each in the 1800MHz band, having increased the previous mooted licence bandwidth from 12.5MHz, while noting that the price rise represents 80% of the estimated real value of the spectrum, up from an earlier draft of 70%. Settapong added that winning bidders will be required to set 4G voice and data tariff rates at a level below those on existing 3G/4G licences. The news has been welcomed by the market which had feared the auction could be further delayed by a recent cabinet reshuffle.

As reported by the Bangkok Post, Settapong revealed that in addition, the 4G licence duration will be reduced to 18 years from 19 years, while 1800MHz licence winners must roll out 4G networks covering at least 40% of the population within four years and 50% within eight. The commissioner also confirmed the NBTC had finally decided to remove a spectrum ownership cap from the auction rules, following a proposal by operator Total Access Communication (DTAC) to return an unused 5MHz in the 1800MHz band to the regulator for re-auction without any conditions.

Regarding Thailand’s planned technology-neutral 900MHz licence auction, the NBTC vice chairman was quoted by the Post as saying that the reserve price for a 900MHz concession would similarly be raised to 80% of the estimated real spectrum value from 70%, an increase from THB11.3 billion to THB12.9 billion. The regulator is holding public hearings on the 900MHz draft auction plans, scheduled to finish on 31 August, and according to Settapong the 900MHz auction date will be either 10 November, 11 November or 12 November 2015. Back in March when the NBTC originally scheduled the 1800MHz auction for 11 November, it predicted the 900MHz sale would follow in December, but this plan has been changed to bring the licensing of both bands closer together.