Thailand’s telecoms regulator has rejected state-owned TOT’s request to allow it to keep its 900MHz spectrum for an additional 10 years after its concession runs out next September, for the sake of “national security and economic stability”.
The proposal, which has support from the ICT Ministry, covers 17.5MHz of spectrum that TOT holds together with AIS, the Bangkok Post reported.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) plans to hold 4G auctions of 900MHz and 1.8GHz spectrum next year. The country’s telecoms act now requires that airwaves be allocated by auction.
The Post quoted NBTC Chairman Thares Punsri as saying that an auction would “create greater benefit for the overall economy and related industries then the state enterprises holding onto them”.
TOT has argued that as a state enterprise it should be able to keep spectrum to offer services such as WiFi to the public.
The ailing firm is desperate to keep some bandwidth to help turn around its business, which lost THB1.3 billion ($39.8 million) in the first half of the year and is on track for a THB10 billion loss for 2014. It employs 20,000 staff. TOT also has 64MHz in the 2.3GHz band that is unused and has requested to keep half of that, the Post said.
Next year’s auctions have already been pushed back from this year by the country’s military government, which took power in May and requested that the method for allocating spectrum be reviewed to improve transparency.
The NBTC is negotiating with the country’s mobile operators to hand over unused airwaves and has said the reclaimed spectrum would be allocated through an auction or a beauty contest.
In August the State Enterprise Policy Commission, set up by the National Council for Peace and Order to review the operations of some state enterprises, ordered TOT and CAT to submit plans for cutting non-core businesses and focus on six core areas to enable it to streamline operations and cut costs.
The ICT Ministry and Finance Ministry planned to discuss the possibility of merging the country’s two state-owned operators (TOT and CAT) in October.