Maximum bandwidth proposed for 1,800 MHZ spectrum bidders
A subcommittee of the national broadcasting and telecom regulator has proposed that the watchdog auction 20 megahertz worth of the 1,800MHz spectrum, and that each participant be allowed to bid for a maximum of 10MHz to ensure meaningful competition.
It also recommended that the auction make available four slots of 5MHz bandwidth each.
The telecom committee of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission will consider the proposals today.
The NBTC should also lose no time in setting up the panel to evaluate the spectrum's value, said Duenden Nikomborirak, a scholar at the Thailand Development Research Institute and member of the sub-panel preparing for the expiry this September of the TrueMove and Digital Phone Co (DPC) cellular service concessions under the 1,800MHz spectrum.
The NBTC will reclaim 12.5MHz of bandwidth each from DPC and TrueMove, who hold the concessions from state agency CAT Telecom. Their spectrum bands stand either side of the 1,800MHz concession of Total Access Communication (DTAC).
This means the bid winners would each be able to use only 10MHz out of their current 12.5MHz bandwidth. As the remaining 2.5MHz apiece are technically insufficient to provide service, the sub-panel has recommended that the watchdog retain this part of the spectrum upon its return.
Duenden's sub-panel also proposed to the telecom committee that CAT should borrow the unused 25MHz bandwidth of DTAC's 1,800MHz spectrum to continue to serving DPC and TrueMove customers if they failed to migrate all their customers to other networks once their concessions end.
DTAC owns 50MHz of the spectrum, of which it currently uses half. She said the company was willing to return the unused half to the NBTC, if it would put this amount into the auction.
DTAC's concession from CAT does not expire until 2018.
Duenden, who is concurrently a member of the NBTC's consumer protection panel, said she was also concerned about the potential impact on DPC's and TrueMove's combined 17 million customers after their concessions expire.
The regulator should hurry to expand the capacity of mobile-phone-number portability to enable DPC and TrueMove customers to migrate quickly to other networks, she added. Number portability allows subscribers to migrate to different networks and continue using their existing phone numbers.
The current daily combined number-transfer capacity of five telecom operators is about 40,000 numbers.
Duenden also said the NBTC should further lower the network interconnection fee imposed on the three holders of licences to provide third-generation service on the 2.1-gigahertz spectrum from 45 satang per minute of call time.
NEW 2.1GHZ AUCTION ISSUE
In a separate matter, another controversy concerning last year's 3G-2.1GHz auction has emerged, with the Finance Ministry and the NBTC apparently applying different approaches to interpreting the Bt22.3-billion proceeds from the spectrum tender.
Supa Piyajitti, a deputy permanent secretary at the ministry, has signed a letter to the NBTC on behalf of permanent secretary Areepong Bhoochaoom, instructing the telecom regulator to retrieve the proceeds, which were delivered to the ministry on December 13.
In the letter, she said the NBTC must do so within 15 days, on the grounds that court cases related to the auction outcome were still being considered by the Supreme Administrative Court.
NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasit said the commission would reply to the ministry within a day or two, vowing however not to retrieve the amount as it was now considered government revenue.
He said the regulator had acted in accordance with the Frequency Allocation Act and the law governing the commission in launching the auction and, as the Finance Ministry had received the proceeds, the repatriation process was now considered complete.