Thailand's NBTC reallocates 4G licences
Set this August is for the 25MHz bandwidth on the 1800MHz spectrum, formerly utilised by True Move and Digital Phone Co (DPC). The auction in November will be for the 17.5MHz bandwidth on the 900MHz spectrum used by mobile leader Advanced Info Service (AIS), and for the 50MHz bandwidth on the 1800MHz spectrum used by Total Access Communication (DTAC) in September next year.
The 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrum will be auctioned before their concessions expire, but the winners can only claim the rights upon expiry. Expiring in March 2015 is the concession of AIS from TOT Plc, whereas DTAC's from CAT Telecom will end by 2018. DTAC only employs 50 per cent of its 50MHz bandwidth.
NBTC vice chairman Col Settapong Malisuwan said in a report that a draft information memorandum for an auction will not specify a technology requirement for the winners. He added that while a bidder can join all three auctions, the NBTC will portion the spectrum for fair bidding.
In the same report, Col Settapong explained that the NBTC will do the auctions as they are scheduled, as the 4G licences that will be bid for in August will be granted when True Move and DPC migrate their customers in September.
True Move and DPC were both allowed to keep their customers, without acquiring new subscribers, for another year after their concession expired in 2013. From 17 million last October, True Move has currently 11 million users. DPC, on the other hand, only has 40,000 out of last year's 70,000.
Under the Frequency Allocation Act, the NBTC has to deny requests for extension of grace period for both companies, as the law prescribes that spectrum ought to be reassigned upon expiry of the concessions.
While the NBTC agreed with a package bid, allowing a single bid for three different licences, the regulator is apprehensive about possible legal conflicts that could arise from the active concessions, and the resulting criticisms regarding pursuing private mobile services under licensing.