The issuing of 3G spectrum in Thailand has been delayed again and is not now expected to be allocated until the first quarter of next year, the local regulator has confirmed. According to the Bangkok Post, Thailand’s Office of the National Telecommunications Commission said the delay could mean commercial 3G services will not launch until late 2010. Suranand Wongwittayakamjorn, secretary-general at the Commission, noted that the auction will take place in January with the spectrum allocated to the winning bidders later in the quarter. However, he declined to give the base price, terms and conditions for the auctions, noting that further guidance will be published in September. The new licenses are in the 2.1GHz band, the band traditionally used for 3G, though some operators have already launched 3G services using existing 900MHz spectrum.

The delayed auction, which has been postponed several times previously, is likely to affect the 3G investment plans of the major Thai operators. The country’s largest mobile operator, Advanced Info Service (AIS), told the Bangkok Post that it could face a loan commitment fee from banks for keeping open the company’s credit line. “If the issue is delayed a quarter, we will be inevitably charged a commitment fee for three months to continue making available unused loan facilities,” said AIS president Wichian Mektrakarn. AIS had secured THB10 billion (US$294 million) in bank loans to spend on 3G by the year-end. However, Tore Johnsen, chief executive of second-placed operator DTAC, said the delay would not affect its 3G plans. “We have no plan to change our 3G outlook now as no significant changes are seen in the whole picture,” he said.