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Further complications for Thai 3G auctions as state operators cries foul

Thailand’s long-delayed 3G auctions have met with yet another setback, with the state-owned operator CAT Telecom filing a legal complaint in which it claims that the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) does not have the requisite authority to hold the 3G auctions.

The NTC, which acts as Thailand’s regulator, has scheduled the auctions to begin this week, so CAT Telecom’s complaint is being viewed as an attempt to sabotage the auctions at the last minute.

The state-owned operator is claiming that the NTC is not authorised to offer the 2.1GHz spectrum, and that the auction regulations are in favour of third parties. CAT Telecom has said that the creation of ‘unfair’ competition will lead to revenue loss for state-owned agencies.

It is widely believed that private firms are likely to win the bids for 3G licences, in which case it is indeed likely that state-owned businesses will suffer greatly as customers are wooed by the availability of new technology.

In a separate announcement, the NTC has confirmed that the major private-owned operators in Thailand – DTAC, AIS and True Move – have met the requisite criteria to bid for the spectrum. Only two licences will be granted in the first auction, with a third being auctioned later in the year.

Bids for the licences, which are valid for 15 years, will begin at THB12.8 billion (US$416 million). 18 companies are reported to be bidding in the auctions, which have suffered numerous delays – making Thailand a latecomer to 3G among its Southeast Asian neighbours.

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