Dtac, the third largest mobile operator in Thailand, acquired 10MHz of 900MHz spectrum for THB38.06 billion ($1.15 billion) in an uncontested auction.

The sum was slightly above the reserve price of THB37.98 billion and dtac is required to pay half within 90 days of 31 October, with two further payments covering 25 per cent of the total due in October 2019 and 2020. The licence covers a 15 year term.

Top two operators AIS and True Move announced in early October they would skip the auction, leaving dtac as the lone bidder.

Dtac CEO Alexandra Reich said the low-band spectrum is “essential to dtac’s network and our internet services, not only for dtac customers in cities, but also for those in rural areas across the country”.

The operator now has spectrum holdings in the 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands, and also operates 60MHz of 2300MHz spectrum in a partnership agreement with state-owned TOT.

Reich said the new spectrum ensures service continuity for its customers: a concession with CAT Telecom to use spectrum in the 850MHz band expired last month, though an administrative court granted dtac a three-month extension to give it time to migrate its 2G customers off the network.

Lack of interest
The National Broadcast and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) was forced to postpone 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrum auctions this year due to a lack of interest from operators, which complained the reserve prices were too high.

In August AIS and dtac each spent THB12.5 billion for their respective blocks in the 1800MHz band, with no competitive bids submitted. The long-delayed sale ended with only two of nine blocks of 10MHz available in the band selling.

Last week NBTC said it aims to hold a 4G auction in February 2019 to sell the unsold 1800MHz spectrum and is looking to more than double the payment period from previous sales to attract interest.