Thailand’s long-delayed 4G spectrum sale ended with only two of nine blocks of 10MHz available in the 1800MHz band selling.

Market leader AIS and third ranked dtac each bid THB12.5 billion ($375 million) for their respective 4G blocks, with no competitive bids submitted, Bloomberg reported. The reserve price per 10MHz slot was THB12.48 billion, the same level as the winning price during a 1800MHz auction in late 2015.

The latest sale was the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission’s (NBTC) second attempt to attract interest in the 4G spectrum after the country’s three major mobile players failed to submit applications in an earlier round.

In July, after tepid interest from operators, NBTC postponed the 1800MHz sale and amended the lot size from three blocks of 30MHz to nine of 10MHz. The regulator also cancelled a 900MHz auction due to lack of interest.

True Move, the second largest operator, did not participate in either auction because it believes its existing 55MHz spectrum holding is sufficient.

Next steps
NBTC secretary general Takorn Tantasith said the regulator is likely to hold the next round by the end of the year, but is considering easing the payment terms or amending the reserve price to attract more interest, Bloomberg reported.

Winning bidders currently need to pay 50 per cent within 90 days of receiving official notification of the auction results; 25 per cent two years after obtaining the licence; and the remaining 25 per cent three years after receipt.

Dtac CEO Lars Norling said in a statement: “Acquiring 1800MHz spectrum as part of dtac’s current spectrum portfolio will not only allow dtac to maintain 2G service for a large base of customers, but will also provide 4G network capacity to serve the massive growth of data usage.”

Part of the spectrum sold is used by dtac on a concessionary basis from state-owned CAT Telecom. The concession expires on 15 September.

In a filing with the Stock Exchange of Thailand, AIS said the source of funds will come from operating cash flow as well as borrowing.