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Delay in new govt will hurt CAT's bid for spectrum

DTAC's Asia chief does not think there is room for new entrant in telecom market

The longer the delay in the formation of the next government, the more the difficulty for CAT Telecom to take part in the 1800MHz auction this year.

Tanwadee Wongterarit, a senior executive vice president of CAT, said last week that the state enterprise needs to seek government approval for planned projects, including the auction.

South Korea's SK Telecom shares the concern of CAT, its partner in the recent study on Thailand's mobile phone market with the focus on 4G wireless broadband, which can be used on the 1800MHz frequency.

CAT and SK Telecom are keen to make a joint bid in the auction.

"CAT is not a newcomer. We have telecom backbone networks countrywide to support the mobile phone service business," she said.

Like TOT, CAT has to seek new revenue to offset the loss of concession revenue. Under the Frequency Allocation Act, both state enterprises have been passing all their concession revenue to state coffers since last December.

Sigve Brekke, executive vice president and head of Asia operations for Telenor Group, the strategic partner of Total Access Communication, or DTAC, said he does not think there would be a new entrant in the telecom market.

The mobile phone market here is already saturated with the penetration rate of subscribers passing 100 per cent. It will be hard for a brand new player to come in and compete with the others, which have already secured network coverage and market share, he said.

For the auction, the NBTC should include all 1800MHz bands, such as the 50MHz bandwidth of DTAC, he said.

The Telecom Committee last Tuesday approved the schedule for three auctions. Two bands of 12.5MHz from the 1800MHz spectrum held by TrueMove and Digital Phone Co will be put up for bidding in August, 17.5MHz of the 900MHz spectrum held by Advanced Info Service (AIS) in November and 50MHz of 1,800MHz held by DTAC next year.

TrueMove and Digital Phone's concessions expired last September, but AIS' concession from TOT will not expire until next year and DTAC's concession from CAT until 2018.

Brekke said that if the NBTC auctions only the bands of TrueMove and DPC, the three expected bidders - AIS, DTAC and True - would have to fight fiercely for this limited bandwidth.

This way, the government might get high upfront payments from the auction, but it is doubtful if the bidders will have enough cash left over to bid for the 900MHz and 1800Mz spectra in the next auctions, he said.

Last week, during a meeting of the NBTC, telecom operators and telecom experts to discuss the draft auction plan, TOT and CAT opposed the concept of auctioning off the 900MHz and 1800MHz spectra before their concessions end.

Recently CAT also told the NBTC that it should allow both CAT and TOT, which are owned by the Finance Ministry, to take part in the auctions.

In 2012, the NBTC prohibited entities with common shareholders from joining in the auction for the 2.1GHz spectrum.


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