Thai operators AIS and dtac separately announced plans to participate in a forthcoming auction of 1800MHz spectrum, but forced a cancellation of a 900MHz sale by opting out of the process.

The operators (respectively the first- and third-largest in the country) informed the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) of their decisions yesterday (8 August). With True Move (the second-largest operator) already announcing it would not participate in either sale, regulator the National Broadcast and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) ditched the 900MHz sale scheduled for 18 August.

NBTC said it will announce the qualified bidders for the 1800MHz spectrum on 15 August ahead of an auction on 19 August.

All three operators previously failed to submit applications for either auction by deadlines in June, but AIS and dtac reconsidered after the regulator made a number of changes to the 1800MHz auction rules.

NBTC postponed the 1800MHz sale and amended the lot size from three blocks of 30MHz to nine of 10MHz.

True Move announced in early June it wouldn’t participate in either auction, noting its existing 55MHz spectrum holding is sufficient to support its current subscriber base and future growth.

Large debt
An analyst familiar with the Thai market told Mobile World Live AIS’ interest is surprising given it spent $3.5 billion on spectrum in late 2015 and early 2016. The analyst speculated AIS is bidding to give dtac a bit of competition.

AIS and True Move each owe the government about THB60 billion ($1.8 billion), which is due in 2019. Under a plan submitted by the acting NBTC board, but later dropped, the country’s prime minister considered using executive order to give the operators five-year extensions for paying for the spectrum in the 900MHz band.

The reserve price per 10MHz slot is THB12.48 billion, which is the same level as set in an 1800MHz auction in late 2015.