Thailand’s regulator, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), said today it will skip issuing standard 3G licenses and instead move forward with an auction to offer more advanced mobile spectrum by the end of this year. In an interview with Dow Jones Newswires, NTC commissioner, Pana Thongmeearkom, said the government plans to hold an auction to issue three licenses for what he termed “3.9G” services by September. “3.9G technology is a more advanced technology than 3G that is based on the 2.1GHz frequencies but allows much faster data transmission which would provide greater benefit to consumers,” Pana said. The planned new licenses comprise slots of 15MHz bandwidth, which will be valid for 15 years. The NTC had previously planned to auction three licenses for 10 MHz bandwidth and one for 15MHz bandwidth. According to the report, Thailand’s three main mobile operators – Advanced Info Service (AIS), Total Access Communication (DTAC), and True Move – have all expressed an interest in participating in the auction. It is thought that the new spectrum will enable the operators to deploy LTE and other next-generation mobile technologies.
Delays in the original 3G auction process has made Thailand one of the last countries in Southeast Asia to migrate to high-speed mobile services. The process has repeatedly been delayed due mainly to the absence of an independent body to regulate broadcasting frequencies, as well as changes in state administrations. Pana was forced to give reassurance that the current political unrest in Thailand would not affect the NTC’s timeline for the issuance of the new licenses. But he admitted that the licensing process could be disrupted if a draft bill that will help establish an independent body to govern frequency allocation, broadcasting and telecoms, gets parliament approval and becomes law.