The ongoing saga of Thailand’s 3G auctions may finally be drawing to a conclusion, as the final draft of the licensing process has been approved by the country’s regulator. By giving its seal of approval, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has raised hopes that the perrennially postponed auctions might finally go ahead in September. Following the official publication of the draft, companies will have a 30-day period in which to tender applications to participate in the auction.
The reserve price for the 3G licence is set at THB12.8 billion (US$393 million) in the new draft; a substantial rise on the previous draft’s projected figure of THB10 billion. Three licences will be offered for auction; any unsold licences will be put up for sale again within three months. All three licences will be for 15-megahertz bandwidth, and will be valid for 15 years.
The minimum coverage requirement that licence winners will be expected to reach is 50% of the population within two years; if they can cover 80% of the population within this time then they will have the option of deferring payment of the final installment by one year.
Thailand’s political situation has witnessed high-profile instability in the past few years, which has resulted in the now-notorious delays in awarding 3G licences. Decisions have been stymied due to the regulator being short by four directors, but now that the nominees for the positions have secured Royal endorsement, this issue has been resolved.
Several of the networks are already running limited trials of WCDMA networks in the 900Mhz band, but lack of radio spectrum is hampering their deployment.