In Thailand’s ever-changing spectrum auction negotiations, the ICT ministry has finally given the go-ahead for the return of 5MHz of 1.8MHz spectrum held by state-owned CAT Telecom to be included in the November 4G auctions.
ICT Minister Uttama Savanayana reportedly said the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) will be informed of the release of the additional 4G airwaves so it can prepare the design of the auctions.
The 4G auctions, which have been delayed by more than a year since the military coup in May 2014, will now include the sale of 30MHz in the 1.8GHz band (two 15MHz blocks) on 11 November and 20MHz of 900MHz spectrum (two blocks) on December 15.
The NBTC, however, is considering holding both auctions on the same day in November and will make a final decision by 15 October.
After years of negotiations, CAT agreed in May to allow dtac to return 5MHz of unused 1.8GHz spectrum to the NBTC.
Following an earlier rejection, stating it wanted to avoid delaying the auctions, the NBTC approved the return of the spectrum in July, but only if it came without conditions and compensation. But in early September the regulator said the additional 5MHz would not be available in time for the auction because the return required changes in the concession, which would take several months to complete.
The country’s Deputy Prime Minister and the ICT Minister then pushed for the return of the 5MHz in time for auction.
Last week the NBTC gave dtac, the country’s third largest mobile operator, the green light to use its 1.8GHz spectrum, currently deployed for 2G, to expand its 4G services. The approval came with the condition that the upgrade to 4G can’t interfere with CAT’s plan to transfer the 5MHz. Dtac currently runs 4G on the 2.1GHz band and has 1.3 million 4G connections.
The six companies that have obtained auction documents for the 1.8GHz auction have also picked up forms for the 900MHz sale. The six are AIS, two subsidiaries of dtac (dtac TriNet and dtac Broadband), two True Move subsidiaries (True Move H Universal Communication and Hutchison Telecommunications Thailand) and Jas Mobile Broadband, a subsidiary of Jasmine International.
The NBTC has set the reserve price of the 900MHz spectrum at THB12.9 billion ($364 million), or 80 per cent of the estimated value, while the base price of the 1.8GHz band is THB15.9 billion.