Thailand’s planned auction of spectrum for 5G services is likely to be pushed back to 2018 because of legal limitations in compensating a state enterprise for returning spectrum and the transition to new telecoms commissioners, the Bangkok Post reported.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) said in December 2016 it would auction off 80MHz in the 2.6GHz band, which is owned but unused by state-owned public broadcaster MCOT, by June to prepare for the eventual rollout of 5G services in 2020.
While MCOT indicated it will return 80MHz of the 190MHz of 2.6GHz spectrum it holds, it expects compensation. However, under the current telecoms act, the NBTC is not authorised to compensate a state agency for returning spectrum. An amended NBTC draft bill allowing MCOT to be compensated is expected to take effect in May.
The Post quoted NBTC commissioner Prawit Leesathapornwongsa as saying: “I strongly believe that the planned auction of 2.6GHz spectrum will not be able to take place in 2017 as scheduled, as the process of setting compensation for MCOT will take time.”
He said after the NBTC bill goes into effect, new commissioners will take over in October and the transition could also cause delays.
The NBTC draft bill doesn’t identify how to calculate compensate for the spectrum. Prawit urged the NBTC to start the process for evaluating the value of the spectrum in order to prepare for the auction in 2018.
A fortnight ago, he said a clear road map for spectrum auctions should be quickly implemented or it would discourage investments in the country’s digital infrastructure.
The view is shared by Thai mobile operators. Paradai Theerathada, chief of corporate affairs at dtac, said in early March the country urgently needs a clear spectrum roadmap to prepare for the coming data deluge. He said an effective roadmap should include a timeline for spectrum bands to be made available, the amount of spectrum to be allocated and the duration of the mobile licenses.
Without these, “spectrum in Thailand is sold in bits and pieces by a number of competing government organisations, with no long-term master plan”, Paradai said.