Thailand’s regulator is fast-tracking the auction of spectrum held by the operator dtac in the 850MHz and 1.8GHz bands.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission’s (NBTC) has stated that it will bring the auctions forward by around three months, scheduling them for January 2018. Based on 2015’s spectrum auctions, the regulator expects the January auctions to raise around THB150 billion ($4.5 billion) for the government.
Reportedly the rescheduling is intended to make sure services continue unabated following the September 2018 expiration of dtac’s concession with state-run operator CAT Telecom. The concession allows dtac - which with a 25% market share is Thailand’s third largest operator – to operate 10MHz on the 850MHz band and 45MHz on the 1.8GHz band.
At the end of 2015, the NBTC held two 4G spectrum auctions that collectively generated THB232.66 billion for the government. Dtac, which is owned by Norway’s Telenor, abstained from these auctions, but first and second placed operators AIS and True both participated, with the former bidding THB41 billion for a 15MHz block of 1.8GHz spectrum and the latter paying THB39.8 billion for a similar amount. In addition, both operators bid around THB76 billion for a 10MHz block of 900MHz spectrum.
In March this year, dtac’s chief of corporate affairs Paradai Theerathada stressed Thailand’s need for a clear route towards making spectrum available so that operators could ready themselves for the anticipated boom in demand for data. He noted that the country would need a definitive strategy to be ready for the data explosion that would unfold over the next few years.
Dtac has seen growth in its mobile operations and accordingly needs to increase its spectrum holding, so it is expected to bid in the auctions in January. In addition to its concession, dtac is licensed to operate 15MHz of spectrum in the 2.1GHz band until 2027.
Thailand is also lining up auctions for 5G-capable spectrum but has had to delay these until 2018, as the NBTC plans to sell off an 80MHz block in the 2.6GHz band that, while unused, is held by state-owned public broadcaster MCOT. In order to go ahead with the auction, the government needs to agree how to compensate the enterprise for relinquishing its spectrum.
The country is also in the process of transitioning to new telecom commissioners. Thailand is aiming to have 5G deployments underway by 2020.