Thailand’s long-delayed 4G auctions, now scheduled for the end of the year, could be pushed back again after the ICT minister and the head of CAT Telecom suggested a few months delay to give the regulator more time to develop an efficient auction plan.
ICT Minister Pornchai Rujiprapa said he supports dtac’s offer to return 5MHz of unused 1.8GHz spectrum for the auction, but urged the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to pay compensation for the return, the Bangkok Post reported.
Last week the regulator said it would reconsider dtac’s offer, following an earlier rejection, but insisted the return must come without conditions or compensation.
Pornchai acknowledged that under the Frequency Allocation Act, the regulator is restricted from giving compensation.
He said the ministry plans to meet with the head of the NBTC to discuss delaying the auction until after the draft NBTC bill is completed, the Post reported. The new bill will give the regulator more authority over spectrum and allow it to reclaim unused frequencies and reallocate them more efficiently.
CAT Telecom acting chief executive Sampachai Huvanandana agreed that if the auction is delayed for a few months to clarify how the 1.8GHz spectrum will be allocated, it won’t cause serious damage, the Post said.
NBTC said last week it is reviewing the reserve price for the 1.8GHz auction now that 5MHz from dtac/CAT is likely to be included. The price will be determined by the end of the month.
Two slots of 12.5MHz in the 1.8GHz band are scheduled to be sold off in November. The return of the 5MHz would increase the amount to 30MHz, which could be divided into two 15MHz blocks to better maximise use of the airwaves. In addition to the 1.8GHz auction, two blocks of 10MHz of 900MHz airwaves will be auctioned off in December.
The 4G auctions have been delayed by more than a year since the military coup in 2014 and are planned for November and December.
The auctions are expected to generate an estimated THB65.31 billion ($2 billion) based on a reserve price of THB16.57 billion ($507 million) per block for the 1.8GHz and THB16.085 billion per slot for the 900MHz block.