Thailand close to finalising 3G auction process

After a well-documented series of delays, Thailand is finally holding auctions for 3G spectrum later this year. The country’s regulator, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), will finalise the terms of the process by the end of April and reveal the opening bid by the following month.

Nine 5MHz slots of 2.1GHz spectrum are available, but the amount of spectrum operators can acquire will likely be limited to 15MHz or 20MHz. Despite the lengthy delays to the national auctions, two operators have in fact already received clearance to begin offering 3G services.

There are already 1.2 million 3G subscribers on the WCDMA/HSPA network of AIS, the number one player in Thailand. The network – the first of its type in the country – was launched in July 2011. The number four operator, True Move, also offers 3G and is aiming to attract 4 million 3G subscribers by the end of 2012.

Reportedly a number of Chinese firms are interested in acquiring Thai 3G licences, although it is widely believed that Western companies have been deterred by the NBTC regulations limiting the influence of foreign shareholders over Thailand’s telecoms sector.