Thai mobile market leader Advanced Info Service (AIS) has won a 30-day extension to continue using 900MHz frequencies to serve its remaining GSM-900 users until 14 April. An eleventh-hour Central Administrative Court decision granted AIS an injunction overriding a regulatory order to switch off its 900MHz signal at midnight on 15 March. AIS’ CEO Somchai Lertsutiwong confirmed that the court decision allowed the operator to continue to use a 5MHz portion of 900MHz spectrum earmarked for award to cellular start-up Jas Mobile, which won the frequencies via auction in December but is yet to pay for its licence. Previously the National Broadcasting & Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) had insisted that AIS cut off its 900MHz service three days after the other 900MHz auction winner True Corp paid for its new licence (in line with auction rules) but the court agreed with AIS that True’s award was irrelevant.
The deadline for Jas Mobile’s parent Jasmine International to pay its 900MHz licensing fee is 21 March, with the technology-neutral licence award originally scheduled for three days after payment, but due to AIS’ court-ordered 900MHz extension, the National Broadcasting & Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has been forced to change licensing procedures, the Bangkok Post writes. The regulator’s timeframe for awarding a licence following payment is being extended to a month. Meanwhile, grave doubts remain as to whether Jasmine can secure bank guarantees for the tech-neutral licence as the payment deadline looms.
AIS is attempting to migrate its remaining roughly 400,000 900MHz-only device users to its 1800MHz/2100MHz 3G/4G networks over the next month with the offer of a free smartphone plus free credit. It has already secured GSM 1800MHz continuity for around 7.6 million users via a roaming deal with rival DTAC.