Thailand’s telecoms regulator set the reserve prices of four spectrum blocks in the 850MHz and 1.8GHz band at a similar level to the country’s last auction in 2015, though analysts warned the prices are high compared with international levels.

The reserve price for the 10MHz block of 850MHz spectrum is THB37.98 billion ($1.14 billion), while the base price for each 30MHz block in the 1.8GHz band was set at THB37.45 billion, Bangkok Post reported. Three 30MHz blocks in the 1.8MHz band will be auctioned.

In the 2015 auctions final spectrum bids hit record levels after adjusting for GDP on a per capita basis. The government raised THB233 billion from the two auctions.

Dtac, the country’s third largest mobile operator with a 25 per cent market share, holds concessions to operate 10MHz on the 850MHz band and 45MHz on the 1.8GHz band. Both concessions with state-owned CAT Telecom expire in September 2018.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) in September announced plans to conduct the auctions in January 2018, some three months earlier than originally planned to ensure continuity of service after the concession expires.

But Bangkok Post reported the plan is now to publish draft details of the auction in January: NBTC secretary general Takorn Tantasith said it aims to hold the auctions by May 2018, with the licences awarded by June to give dtac customers a few months to transfer.

The regulator also almost tripled the required bid guarantee to THB1.87 billion. The increase comes after Jas International defaulted on its licence payment in early 2016, forfeiting the licence and its THB645 million guarantee. Market leader AIS ended up winning the re-auction.

World record
In the last auctions True paid THB76.3 billion for 10MHz of 900MHz spectrum and THB39.8 billion for a 15MHz block in the 1.8GHz band, while market leader AIS spent THB75.56 billion for the 900MHz spectrum and THB41 billion for the 1.8GHz airwaves.

The winning bids for the 900MHz spectrum were nearly six times higher than the reserve price set by the telecoms regulator at THB12.8 billion. Analysts said the more than $2 billion True and Jasmine each bid for 10MHz of low-band spectrum was a world record per megahertz. The 1.8GHz bids were 158 per cent and 150 per cent over the reserve price respectively.