Thailand’s telecoms regulator dropped a recommendation to relax the payment terms of 4G licences awarded to the country’s two largest mobile operators (AIS and True Move) in 2015 after the proposal drew sharp criticism.

Under a plan submitted by the acting National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), the country’s prime minister was considering using Article 44, or executive order, to give AIS and True Move five-year extensions for paying for the spectrum in the 900MHz band, Bangkok Post reported. The operators each owe the government about THB60 billion ($1.9 billion), which is due in 2019.

Third-ranked dtac called for a similar payment extension in an upcoming spectrum auction, while Thailand Development Research Institute chairman Somkiat Tangkitvanich described NTBC’s plan as “strange logic” as AIS and True Move haven’t indicated any sign of financial difficulty.

NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said: “The state must decide if the measure is in the public’s interest. The National Council for Peace and Order [NCPO] and the government must decide if they agree with the arguments against the planned assistance,” Bangkok Post reported.

AIS and True Move submitted a petition to the NCPO in September 2017 asking for the licence payment terms to be relaxed.

Vichaow Rakphongphairoj, group co-president of True, said the winning prices of the 900MHz licences were six times higher than the reserve price, and the winning prices at the 2015 auction were the highest in Asia and the second-highest in the world after the US, the newspaper reported.

In November 2017 the NBTC set the reserve price for the 10MHz block of 850MHz spectrum at THB37.98 billion, while the base price for each 30MHz block in the 1.8GHz band was set at THB37.45 billion.

Operators and analysts complained at the time the prices, which are at a similar level as in 2015, were high compared with international levels.