AIS and True Move — Thailand’s first and third ranked operators by subscribers – outbid two rivals to win the country’s first two 4G licences, each paying more than $1 billion for 15MHz of 1.8GHz spectrum.

The long-delayed auction generated THB80.8 billion ($2.25 billion) for the government, with AIS winning with a THB41 billion bid and True Move paying THB39.8 billion. The bids were 158 per cent and 150 per cent over the reserve price respectively.

The country’s second largest operator dtac and Jasmine International, a fixed-line broadband provider, lost out in their attempt to secure the 18-year 4G licences during the auction that had 86 bidding rounds and lasted more than 30 hours.

National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said that the megahertz per person cost of THB18 ($0.50) was equal to the cost in developing countries, the Bangkok Post reported.

AIS and True Move need to pay half the bidding fees within 90 days of the auction and have four years for coverage to reach 40 per cent of the population. The regulator has said 4G tariffs can’t be higher than 3G prices.

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.

After the marathon first auction, the NBTC said for the 900MHz sale it will reduce the length of each bidding round from 20 minutes to 10 minutes to try to avoid going overnight.