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NBTC to go ahead with telecom spectrum auctions despite legal issue

THE NATIONAL Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission will resolutely plough ahead with its auction of 1,800- and 900-megahertz licences this year despite a legal threat over its auction of 2.1-gigahertz licences back in 2012.

"We will hold the new auction round for 1,800MHz this August, since the multibillion-baht bidding would help stimulate Thailand's economy," commissioner Suthiphon Thaveechaiyagarn said yesterday during a press conference for the public hearing on the draft 1,800MHz auction plan.

A committee of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) reportedly concluded last Friday that the NBTC telecom committee's approval of the results of the auction for 2.1GHz third-generation cellular licences had breached the State Bidding Act and the auction had lacked meaningful competition.

The NBTC has not yet received any formal notification from the NACC on the case and as far as it knows, the anti-graft committee has still not drawn any conclusion.

An NACC source said the panel would soon submit its report to the full anti-corruption body to make a final decision on whether to probe the case further. The targets would be four of the five telecom committee members who voted to approve the auction results in 2012.

If the NACC decides that the 2.1GHz auction breached state bidding law, that would affect the plan of the telecom committee to proceed further with the 1,800MHz auction.

Advanced Info Service, the leading cellular operator, is also worrying about the auction.

"We would support the NBTC to hold the auction to serve more demand for data communication services and to improve the economic situation," AIS chief executive officer Wichian Mektrakarn said.

The NBTC has set a starting price of Bt11.6 billion for one of two licences of 12.5MHz each from the 1,800MHz spectrum.

At the public hearing, most telecom operators were concerned about the condition that the NBTC may cancel the auction if there are only two bidders in a round.

AIS said the NBTC should opt to extend the auction instead of cancelling it outright. True Corp also said the NBTC should drop that condition, since it was not part of the 2.1GHz auction two years ago.

Total Access Communication (DTAC) said the price for each bidding round should decrease to only 1 per cent or Bt116 million of the starting price of Bt11.6 billion instead of 5 per cent or Bt580 million, as proposed by the NBTC.


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