Thailand’s telecoms regulator aims to hold a 4G auction in February 2019 to sell 1800MHz spectrum which went unsold in August and is looking to more than double the payment period from previous sales to attract interest, Bangkok Post reported.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) is considering extending the licence payment terms from three years to between eight and ten years to reduce the financial burden on the winners.

Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the NBTC, said he believes longer licence payment terms will make it easier to bid for the slots because only THB1.2 billion ($36.4 million) per year is a competitive price, the newspaper reported.

Winners of past spectrum auctions were required to pay half the of the final price within 90 days of the auction closing, with 25 per cent due at the beginning of the second year and the remainder to be paid in the third year.

Financial burden
AIS and True Move each owe the government about THB60 billion for spectrum acquired in late 2015 an early 2016, with payment 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.

The regulator was forced to postpone or cancel planned auctions this year due to a lack of interest from operators.

A long-delayed 1800MHz spectrum sale ended in August with only two of nine blocks of 10MHz available selling. Market leader AIS and third ranked dtac each spent THB12.5 billion for their respective 4G blocks, with no competitive bids submitted.

The spectrum going on sale was part of a 2G concession dtac held with CAT Telecom, which expired on 15 September. The unsold 70MHz will be split into seven 10MHz blocks, with a reserve price for each of THB12.48 billion, the same as in the August auction.

AIS and True Move, the two largest operators in the country, recently announced they would skip a 900MHz spectrum auction, leaving dtac as the lone bidder in a sale the regulator pushed back to 28 October.

5G bands
Takorn said auctions of 5G spectrum “should have a reasonable starting price to avoid creating untenable financial burdens for operators”, Bangkok Post reported.

NBTC is looking at offering low spectrum bands such as the 700MHz and 2600MHz bands, but would stipulate winners also are given high-band blocks such as the 3.5GHz to 3.8GHz, and 23GHz to 28GHz ranges.