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ITU proposes sales of 5MHz blocks

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has proposed that the telecom regulator divide the 1,800- and 900-megahertz spectra into blocks of 5MHz bandwidth for allocation, according to a source in the working committee charged with setting up the spectrum auctions. The working committee will consider this proposal next week before submitting it for the consideration of the auction subcommittee and then to the whole telecom committee of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

The telecom committee has hired the ITU as a consultant on its development of the spectrum auctions, the first of which is scheduled to take place this year.

The ITU proposed that only 10MHz bandwidth each of the two 12.5MHz blocks held by TrueMove and Digital Phone Co (DPC) on the 1,800MHz spectrum be auctioned. Each bidder would be able to grab a maximum of two 5MHz blocks, or a total of 10MHz.

The 1,800MHz concessions of both TrueMove and DPC expired last September.

In the case of the 900MHz blocks held by Advanced Info Service, the ITU suggested that the committee combine AIS's existing 17.5MHz bandwidth with the NBTC's unused 2.5MHz bandwidth of the same spectrum and auction this total, 20MHz. The committee should also divide this spectrum into blocks of 5MHz, but the ITU does not specify the maximum each bidder could acquire. AIS's concession will expire next year.

The telecom committee plans to hold three auctions. Two bands from the 1,800MHz spectrum held by TrueMove and DPC will be put up for bidding in August, 17.5MHz of the 900MHz spectrum held by AIS in November, and 50MHz of 1,800MHz held by Total Access Communication (DTAC) next year.

Telecom committee chairman Settapong Malisuwan said his panel would finalise the reserve price for the 1,800MHz auction next month. The reserve price is expected to be higher than that of the 2012 2.1-gigahertz auction, while that of 900MHz will be higher than that of 1,800MHz. The reserve price for the 2.1GHz auction was Bt4.5 billion per 5MHz.

All cellular operators - AIS, DTAC, True, and CAT Telecom - are keen to bid for both the 1,800MHz and 900MHz spectra. However, since there is no permanent government in charge at the moment, CAT might have to discuss with the Election Commission and the State Enterprise Policy Office which authorities it should ask for approval to bid for the spectrum, said CAT president Kitisak Sriprasert.

CAT has partnered with True to provide third-generation wireless broadband service using 850MHz. Under the partnership, the state agency has wholesaled its 3G-850MHz bandwidth to Real Move of True to offer service under TrueMove H brand. CAT has retailed the bandwidth under its own My brand. The service targets 700,000 subscribers this year, up from the present 179,000, while its 3G wholesale service is expected to gain around Bt25 billion revenue from True this year.

Kitisak said CAT had targeted revenue of Bt46 billion (excluding concession revenue) this year, with Bt1.6 billion of profit. Last year its revenue was Bt76 billion (including concession revenue) and Bt11.2 billion profit.


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