Strong interest from operators in Thailand pushed up spectrum prices in an auction which exceeded government expectations, as three lots of the 700MHz band alone generated THB51.4 billion ($1.64 billion) in bids.

State-owned CAT Telecom acquired two of three 5MHz blocks available for THB34.3 billion, which its president Sappachai Huwanan hailed as an important milestone, with the company preparing to use the low frequency band to expand its 4G and 5G coverage, and increase capacity.

He noted the 700MHz band is key for the future as its holding in the 850MHz band expires in 2025.

The auction of 2805MHz across the 700MHz, 2600MHz and 26GHz bands raised THB100.5 billion, with all but one 100MHz lot of 26GHz spectrum sold in a one-day auction yesterday (16 February).

Market leader AIS was the major winner, spending THB42.1 billion for the remaining 5MHz block in the 700MHz band, 100MHz of 2600MHz and 1200MHz in the 26GHz band. It was restricted from bidding for more due a 100MHz cap in the 2600MHz band and 1200MHz cap in 26GHz.

True Move, the second-largest operator by subscribers, picked up 90MHz of 2600MHz spectrum and 800MHz in the 26GHz band for THB21.45 billion.

State-owned TOT acquired 400MHz of 26GHz spectrum for THB1.8 billion, while dtac purchased 200MHz in the band for THB910 million.

Dtac CEO Sharad Mehrotra said with the acquisition of 26GHz spectrum, “we now have access to low-, mid- and high-band spectrum to provide our customers with the best data experience in the future”.

Thailand’s regulator raised its expectations for proceeds in late January, after the government approved participation by state-owned operators.