After participating in Thailand’s latest 900MHz spectrum auction as the sole bidder, dtac has obtained a 10MHz block for THB38.06 billion ($1.15 billion).
Dtac bid just over the reserve price of THB37.98 billion, and has 90 days from the end of October to pay 50% of the sum. It then has until October 2019 to pay a further 25% and then 2020 to pay off the final quarter. The spectrum is licensed for 15 years.
The operator’s CEO Alexandra Reich said that obtaining low-band spectrum would be “essential to dtac’s network and our internet services, not only for dtac customers in cities, but also for those in rural areas across the country”. Dtac’s two main rivals, AIS and True Move, did not consider the spectrum as essential – both declined to participate in the auction.
One key reason that dtac considered the spectrum so vital was to ensure continuity of service for its 2G customers – this was by no means certain, as the operator had been leasing 850MHz spectrum from state-owned CAT Telecom via a concession which expired last month. Following a court hearing, dtac was given a further three months to migrate these customers off the network.
In addition to its now-defunct arrangement with CAT, dtac also has a partnership with state-owned TOT which grants it 60MHz of 2300MHz spectrum. The operator also holds spectrum in the 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands, in addition to its new 900MHz holding.
This year, regulator NBTC (National Broadcast and Telecommunication Commission) pushed back scheduled auctions of both 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrum after operators opted not to register any interest in bidding due to high reserve prices.
The 1800MHz sale went ahead in August and concluded with only two of the nine available blocks selling. Dtac and AIS each obtained a block for THB12.5 billion, with no other participants bidding. The unsold spectrum from this auction is lined up for a fresh round of bidding in February, with NBTC looking to ease the payment terms in order to drum up interest.