Thailand sets out 900MHz re-auction terms

30 Mar 2016

Following the failure of would-be cellco Jas Mobile to pay for its licence, Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krueangam has made a statement on proposed terms for re-auctioning the 900MHz 4G spectrum. TelecomAsia quotes Wissanu as saying that the National Broadcasting & Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) must successfully auction off the frequencies within one year, at a price no less than Jas bid in December 2015 – a sky-high THB75.65 billion (USD2.14 billion); if the NBTC’s re-auction fails then Jas Mobile must be held responsible for any shortfall, the deputy PM claimed.

Earlier, in line with the deputy PM’s statement, NBTC official Takorn Tantasit had proposed a timeframe of four months for a re-auction with the starting price of Jas’ winning bid, although with a back-up plan to hold a second auction one year later in the event of the first attempt failing. As reported by TelecomAsia, Takorn also suggested that the starting price might be lowered to around THB70 billion. Meanwhile, the pre-bid auction deposit would rise to between 10% and 30% of the revised opening bid (compared to the previous 5%). Takorn said that draft auction rules would be opened to public comment between 18 April and 23 May, and should be formalised in the Royal Gazette by 31 May. The auction will be held by 20 June 2016, according to the NBTC’s preliminary schedule. Addressing another issue, Takorn said that the NBTC insists that the other winning 900MHz bidder True Corp – which has already paid for its licence – will be allowed to enter the re-auction for the other spectrum block, despite protests from one of the outbid cellcos, DTAC. Cellular market leader AIS is considered a theoretical contender for the re-auction, but it too was unwilling to bid as high as True or Jas in the original contest.

Meanwhile, the CEO of Jas Mobile’s parent Jasmine International, Pete Bodharamik said in a stock market filing that the mobile start-up missed the NBTC’s payment/bank guarantee deadline because its prospective partnership agreement with an unnamed Chinese telecoms giant still awaited finance approval from Chinese regulators. As a result, the issuance of required bank guarantees worth THB72 billion had been delayed. As reported by the Bangkok Post, Jas said the approval process would have taken until mid-April (well beyond the deadline set by the Thai regulator). The NBTC insisted it could neither extend the deadline nor relax conditions in the auction rules for Jas.