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Thailand takes another stab at 900MHz spectrum auction

Thailand takes another stab at 900MHz spectrum auction

Thai regulator NBTC is putting 900MHz spectrum back up for auction, but has revised the terms in the hopes of attracting operators after the failure of the last sale.

Interested parties have until 8th October to lodge bids, with the auction scheduled for 20th October. Last month, the NBTC (National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission) was forced to scrap its scheduled 900MHz auction when no operators opted to bid.

The regulator has evidently attributed the lack of interest to a specific condition for successful bids, which it has now scrapped. In the last auction, winning bidders would have been required to prevent interference between the 900MHz band and airwaves assigned for use by railway projects.

Last week, Thailand’s Central Administrative Court granted third-placed operator dtac a further three months to deliver services via the 850MHz spectrum that it leases on a concession from CAT Telecom. This concession expired on 15th September and dtac wanted an extension to guarantee that there would be no interruption to its services while it migrates customers.

The NBTC had refused to grant the extension, with secretary-general Takorn Tantasith noting that this was at least in part because dtac had turned down the opportunity to obtain its own spectrum in the scrapped 900MHz auction.

The deadline for submitting bids in the new auction is a week earlier than the NBTC’s deadline for appealing the Central Administrative Court’s decision. This can be seen as the regulator trying to force dtac’s hand, as if it doesn’t bid in the auction, the regulator could appeal, leaving dtac without access to spectrum.

According to the Bangkok Post, the NBTC’s continued attempts to shift the 900MHz spectrum are due to pressure from the government to bring in revenue. However, operators have shown more interest in 1.8GHz spectrum, with market leader AIS and dtac each obtaining a 10MHz block in this frequency for THB12.5 billion ($386 million) last month. Seven other available blocks were not sold.

Second placed operator True Move confirmed in June that it has no intention of bidding for further spectrum, as its current 55MHz holding is enough for its future plans.

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