A special committee has called for Thailand’s telecoms regulator to push back the long-delayed 4G auctions by a few months to give it more time to free up additional spectrum bands.
Currently just two 12.5MHz slots of 1.8GHz spectrum are scheduled to be auctioned off in November. Operators have said they need at least 20MHz to offer 4G service effectively.
Dtac, the country’s second largest mobile operator, recently offered to unconditionally return 25MHz of unused 1.8GHz spectrum to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC). The spectrum is part of a concession with state-owned CAT and isn’t due to expire until 2018.
The so-called NBTC superboard was set up last year by the new government to evaluate the performance of the 11-member regulator.
The committee’s chairman, Boonyavat Kruahongs, said the industry would be better off in the long term if the auctions are delayed by a few months in order to offer additional frequencies, the Bangkok Post reported.
The government last month asked the NBTC to look at including additional spectrum bands in the auction apart from the planned 900MHz and 1.8GHz frequencies. The regulator could earn an estimated THB65.31 billion ($2 billion) from the expanded auctions.
True Move CEO Suphachai Chearavanont has urged the regulator to include used 2.3 and 2.6GHz spectrum in the auctions, noting the high-frequency bands will allow operators to offer highly efficient and low-cost 4G services, the Post said.
More than 120MHz of 2.6GHz spectrum is available, which Suphachai said was more than enough for operators to deliver quality services.
The auctions were originally delayed a year after the military coup last May and were recently pushed back to the end of the year by the NBTC, after the government insisted multiple times they would be held in August.
Meanwhile, the State Council has approved three draft digital economy related bills, including the controversial NBTC bill that maintains the NBTC as an independent regulatory agency.
The other two bills, which will become law once approved by the National Legislative Assembly, are the Digital Economy bill that sets up a 14-member Digital Economy Committee and the ICT Ministry Reform bill, which creates the Digital Economy and Society Ministry.
The other five draft bills that are part of the government’s digital economy push are expected to be approved over the next three months.