The Thai government is now considering accepting AIS’ offer to match Jas Mobile’s failed bid for a 900MHz licence instead of holding a new auction for the 4G spectrum.
Market leader AIS, the second highest bidder for the 4G block, told the telecoms regulator earlier in the week it would pay THB75.7 billion ($2.1 billion) for the 10MHz of 900MHz spectrum forfeited by Jas Mobile.
According to the Bangkok Post, Prime Ministry Prayut Chan-o-cha said the government is looking at the possibility of using Section 44 under the interim charter – which gives him absolute power — to award the licence to AIS and “avoid all the hassle” of holding a new auction.
“We’re looking into legal issues and weighing the benefits of [using Section 44] to give the licence [to AIS] now instead of holding a new auction. There are a few bidders anyway,” the prime minister said. He said the government’s legal team will determine whether accepting the proposal is legal and to compare the benefits the country will gain from selling to AIS versus the time it will take for a re-auction, the Post reported.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has said it lacks the authority to approve AIS’ proposal.
The Post quoted Thakoon Tanthasith, who heads the NBTC’s broadcasting committee, as saying: “The offer shows the reserve price of THB75.65 billion is not too high. Clearly, an operator is interested.”
The CEO of the country’s third largest operator dtac, Lars Norling, said last month that if a new auction is held, the reserve price should be set at the original reserve price of THB16.08 billion. But even if it is willing to match the price, Thakoon said AIS would be given priority because it was the second highest bidder in the December auction.
NBTC on Tuesday approved the criteria for the new auction, which includes tougher conditions to participate and bars True Move from participating. True won spectrum in both the 900MHz and 1.8GHz bands last year, paying a record $4.2 billion for the two 4G licences.