Heat on NBTC after spectrum sale failure

Economy June 16, 2018 01:00

By SIRIVISH TOOMGUM
THE NATION

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THE NATIONAL Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) will consult with the government on how to proceed after telecommunications operators yesterday turned their backs on the sale of 1800MHz licences.



The regulator had set yesterday as the only day that prospective bidders for licences could file papers expressing their intention to participate in the auction. With the effective deadline having passed for the opening stage of the auction process, the attention now switches to the NBTC’s next move.

NBTC secretary general Takorn Tantasith said yesterday that the NBTC was expected to conclude its response to the predicament by July 10. He added that he wanted to see the auction take place this year.

Earlier, Takorn had said that if there was no bidder, the NBTC would revise the auction rules and the process might take one year to complete.

All three major telecom operators opted to skip the auction of the 1800MHz licences, citing their sufficient bandwidth and that some of auction rules did not favour their bid participation.

For Total Access Communication (DTAC) and Advanced Info Service, their announcements on staying out of the auction came yesterday; True Corp did so earlier this month.

DTAC’s shares plunged 7.11 per cent to close at Bt45.75 yesterday, while AIS shares rose 1.06 per cent to end at Bt191. Shares in True closed up 0.76 per cent.

DTAC chief executive officer Lars Norling said that the company had considered the auction carefully and concluded that it has enough high-band spectrum to handle the expected growth in data services. 

Moreover, the auction conditions did not allow for long-term value creation for its customers and shareholders, he said.

Norling said that its decision yesterday would not preclude it from entering into any future actions of spectrum. It would continue to seek additional spectrum bands, especially the low band, to enhance its operations, subject to more favourable auction rules.

Norling added that DTAC would take all necessary preparatory measures to ensure that no customer is adversely impacted by the concession expiry on September 15.

DTAC and its concession owner CAT Telecom early this month jointly presented a subscriber protection plan to the NBTC for approval as DTAC approaches the expiration of its 1800MHz and 850MHz concessions.

Referring to the company’s sufficient holdings of bandwidth, he said that DTAC holds 2x15 MHz of capacity on the 2100 MHz band under the NBTC’s licensing regime and recently partnered with TOT to provide the service on the state agency's 60 MHz on 2300 MHz - Thailand’s widest single block of spectrum.

As the 2300 MHz spectrum operates on the 4G TDD (Time Division Duplex) standard, its benefits are even greater on download capacity. The 1800MHz band that will be put to auction belongs to CAT. The state agency has granted the band to DTAC to operate the service under its concession.

To bolster its network, DTAC is also rapidly rolling out new cellular sites. It is adding about 4,000 3G/4G 2100 MHz sites per year in 2017-18, double the rollout speed in previous years.

DTAC committed to adding a minimum of 4,000 4G TDD sites in 2018 as per its agreement with TOT. DTAC is aiming for up to 7,000 2.3GHz sites by the end of the year. 

It has a target of 4 million 2.3G subscribers at the end of this year.

DTAC chief technology officer Prathet Tankuranun said DTAC is investing Bt4.51 billion per year to operate 2300 MHz in partnership with TOT and will invest a further Bt15 billion to Bt18 billion in building 2100 MHz and 2300 MHz networks.

Its partnership with CAT will also allow DTAC to keep operating the telecom towers that are under the concession. This will ensure continuous service for its customers.

According to an AIS statement yesterday, the company said that after a thorough review of the terms and conditions of the spectrum auction, AIS had decided not to participate in the auction. 

AIS considered that the auction terms were not appropriate nor in the best interests of the company at this stage. AIS stressed that the company’s existing bandwidth, of 55 MHz in total, is sufficient.