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Thai government gets tough on state operators to avoid auction delays

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chanocha has issued a strongly-worded warning to the country’s state-owned operators over making further postponements to the already delayed 4G auctions.

Making it clear that the government would take a zero tolerance approach, Chanocha simply said: “Any legal action against the auctions will be considered illegal.”

His comments follow threats from state operator CAT Telecom to impede the 1.8GHz auction by filing an injunction unless it receives 20MHz of spectrum in this band so that it can offer 4G services. The labour union of fellow state-owned operator TOT has already begun a lawsuit in a bid to halt the 900MHz auction.

This legal challenge comes despite assurances from ICT Minister Uttama Savanayana that TOT would not go to court in an attempt to stop the 900MHz auction, after the state operator secured a partnership with market leader AIS that would allow it to offer 3G and 4G services on the 2.1GHz and 2.3GHz bands.

Thailand’s 4G auctions have been pushed back by over a year since the current government took power in a military coup last May. Two 15MHz blocks of spectrum in the 1.8GHz band are scheduled for sale on November 11, while 20MHz of 900MHz spectrum will be available for bidding on December 15. The total value of the bids is expected to exceed $2 billion.

Chanocha warned the state enterprises that their autonomy has been reined in, noting that their revenues must be returned in full to the state treasury. 

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