Thailand’s planned 1.8GHz auction went ahead on time yesterday, with the four bidders – AIS, dtac, True and Jasmine — pushing the price of the two 15MHz blocks to THB77.99 billion ($2.17 billion) in a marathon bidding session that has gone on for more than 24 hours.

At 16:30 local time today the bids for the two licences had reached THB39.39 billion and THB38.6 billion – more than double the reserve price of THB15.91 billion, the Bangkok Post reported.

AIS, the country’s leading mobile player with a 46 per cent market share, was expected to spend heavily in the auction because it’s the only operator in the country without 4G service.

The 900MHz auction (two blocks of 10MHz) is scheduled on December 15. The 4G auctions, which have been delayed by more than a year since the military coup in May 2014, were expected to raise more than $2 billion for the government.

The winners need to pay half the bidding fees within 90 days of the auction date.

Meanwhile, NBTC has ceded to pressure from state-owned CAT Telecom and granted it a licence for 20MHz in the 1.8GHz band. But the licence is only for three years, which is when its concession with dtac ends. The 2018 expiry effectively means CAT won’t be able to actually launch 4G services.

CAT made the demand for the spectrum after its state-owned rival TOT was given the rights to 64MHz of 2.3MHz until 2027.

The move by the regulator didn’t stop CAT’s labour union from filing an injunction to try to stop the 1.8GHz auction yesterday. The motion went ahead despite the country’s prime minister Prayuth Chanocha saying last week that any legal action against the auctions will be considered illegal.

CAT sued the NBTC in 2013 over ownership of the 1.8GHz band and has asked the courts for an injunction until the case has been heard.