Only two of the nine available blocks of 1800MHz spectrum found a buyer in Thailand’s much delayed 4G auctions.
The country’s first and third-placed operators, AIS and dtac, each paid THB12.5 billion ($375 million) for a 10MHz block – very slightly more than the reserve price of THB12.48 billion, which was the same amount as the winning bid at Thailand’s last 1800MHz auctions, held in 2015. No competitive bids were entered, with second-placed True Move abstaining due to its belief that the 55MHz that it currently holds will allow it to offer adequate 4G services.
None of the country’s three largest operators participated in an earlier round of bidding, prompting the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to split the three 30MHz blocks into nine 10MHz blocks in the hopes of creating more interest. A scheduled 900MHz auction was scrapped as no operators planned to bid.
Another round of auctions is expected by the end of the year, according to NBTC secretary general Takorn Tantasith, although he noted that to ensure more interest from operators the regulator would likely have to lower the reserve prices and relax the terms of payment.
Once they have been notified of their win, operators have just 90 days to pay off 50% of their bid under the current licensing terms. They then have two years to pay a further 25% and another year for the final 25%.
Obtaining spectrum will be a particular relief to dtac as the operator currently offers services via concessions from the state-owned operator CAT Telecom which expire on 15th September. Its new holding will enable dtac to guarantee continuity of service.
Dtac CEO Lars Norling said: “Acquiring 1800MHz spectrum as part of dtac’s current spectrum portfolio will not only allow dtac to maintain 2G service for a large base of customers, but will also provide 4G network capacity to serve the massive growth of data usage.”