Thailand auctions 45 MHz of spectrum to three existing operators

Thailand auctioned 45 MHz of 2.1 GHz spectrum on 16 October 2012 to the three incumbent mobile operators AIS, DTAC and True. Despite expectations that the auction could be delayed  the auction went ahead as planned, although it is reported that the Thai auction and spectrum awards are the subject of litigation that could yet delay service deployment.

With high demand in Thailand for mobile data from consumers, and therefore demand for spectrum from operators, the criticism has focused on the auction design with each player capped at 15 MHz of the 45MHz available. With low competitive tension in the auction, the spectrum was sold for Bt41.7bn ($1.36bn), only marginally above the reserve price.

However, NBTC (the Thai regulator) is clear that maximising the auction proceeds was not the primary policy objective of the auction – rather the objective was to get the spectrum into use as soon as possible.  Provided that the spectrum award is not delayed by litigation and goes ahead as anticipated in the next 90 days, it seems likely that Thai consumers will see service improvements in the near future.

In addition, the direct award of the spectrum by the NBTC, in contrast to the current 2G concessions granted by TOT and CAT place the mobile operators’ business on a sounder footing for the future.