ADVANCED Info Service (AIS) is now left as the only applicant in the running to take part in the upcoming re-auctioning of a 900MHz licence.
Two operators – AIS and True Corp – had picked up the bid documents, but True sent a filing to the Stock Exchange of Thailand on Monday to inform the bourse of its board’s resolution that the company would not participate in the re-auction, given that it already has a very comprehensive spectrum portfolio with sufficiently large bandwidth totalling 55MHz.
However, it remains to be seen whether AIS will actually participate. As of press time, the company had yet to make an official announcement of its intentions.
Today is the day that licence applicants have to submit their bid documents and place a bank guarantee of Bt3.783 billion.
Under the re-auction rules, the National Broadcasting and Telecom-munications Commission (NBTC) will hold the auction even if there is only one qualified bidder.
The starting price is Bt75.6 billion, the same final price that the Jasmine International group quoted to win this particular licence band in December.
Last month, Total Access Com-|munication (DTAC) was the first telecom operator to announce that it would not join the re-auction.
True group and Jasmine group each landed a 900MHz licence at last December’s auction.
However, the latter’s Jas unit failed to make the initial payment of the upfront licence fee, thus losing the right to use the licence.
The regulator decided as a result to re-auction the licence on May 27.
NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said yesterday that in the event of only one bidder, once the bidding started, the bidder would first be required to confirm the starting price.
After that, if it declines to further raise the price, the bidding ends and it becomes the winner at such a price.
If AIS were to grab the 10MHz of 900MHz bandwidth available via this re-auction, its total spectrum bandwidth would be 55MHz, the same as True’s.
AIS currently holds 15MHz of the 2.1GHz spectrum and 15MHz of the 1800MHz spectrum – both granted by the NBTC.
It is also in the process of tying up several partnership deals with TOT to jointly offer 3G service on the state agency’s 15MHz bandwidth in the 2.1GHz spectrum.
True now has 15MHz of the 2.1GHz spectrum, 15MHz of the 1800MHz spectrum, and 10MHz of the 900MHz spectrum – all granted by the NBTC.
It also has partnered with CAT Telecom to offer 3G service on 15MHz of CAT’s 850MHz spectrum.
True chief finance officer Noppadol Dej-udom said yesterday that True’s decision not to join the fray was a win-win situation for all.
The decision not to take part was based on advice received from UK-based Analysis Mason, and a consensus vote from the board, he explained.
Declining to join the fray means True can concentrate on investing in its network and service rollout, he said, adding that the business has set aside a total of Bt47 billion this year for group investment.
Bt31billion will be for mobile business development, of which Bt8.04billion is for upfront payment of its 900MHz licence fee.
Bt13 billion will be allocated for online business development, and the remaining Bt2.5 billion for TrueVisions.
Noppadol said True’s decision not to join the bidding would promote competition.
He added that True chairman Dhanin Chearavanont had said during the board meeting that True welcomed genuine competition, and that it did not want anyone to blame it for blocking rivals from having a chance to land a 900MHz band.
The chief finance officer said that if True had decided to take part, the licence price could have risen to more than Bt80 billion during the bidding on May 27.
In his opinion, AIS will definitely submit its bid document today.
Despite the looming hotting up of competition should AIS win the 900MHz licence, Noppadol believes True will become the No-2 player in terms of revenue market share within three years.
As of the third quarter last year, AIS had 52 per cent of overall revenue and DTAC had 27.5 per cent, followed by True with 22 per cent.
True this year will gain around Bt60billion from new capital-raising, of which Bt50 billion will be for repaying part of the group’s debt of Bt90 billion, the CFO said.
In a separate matter, the NBTC telecom committee yesterday resolved that the holders of 1800MHz and 900MHz wireless-service licences should charge customers on an actual per-second billing basis in all promotional packages, in line with licensing conditions.
The watchdog will inform the licence-holders soon.
The NBTC office will also issue two announcements, one specifying that the average 2.1GHz voice service fee of licence-holders must not exceed 82 satang per minute, and that the cost of data service must not exceed 28 satang per megabyte.
The other announcement caps the service fee of 1800MHz and 900MHz licence-holders at lower than 69 satang per minute for voice, and below 26 satang per megabyte for data service.