The trio of 3G bid winners broke their silence yesterday over the controversial spectrum auction, maintaining there was no collusion in the auction process.
The move came as a group of 11 senators petitioned the Ombudsman's Office yesterday to ask the Administration Court to review the 3G licence auction.
"If any evidence of tacit collusion among bidders is found by authorities, we [the winners] are ready to be subject to any severe punishment," the three winners said.
Lao Telecommunications opened 4G mobile phone service on Monday that it says will be up and running in Vientiane for the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting (Adem) summit set for Sunday and Monday.
The new LTE (4G) service provides speeds of up to 100 Mbps, about five times faster than the current 3G system in Laos, according to Lao Telecoms director Thongsay Xanxaiya.
China-based Huawei Technology Co installed 20 LTE mobile stations in Vientiane to switch on the network.
The system will be aimed at delegates and guests for the summit, he said, but the service will be opened next week to the public in Vientiane.
The Beeline mobile phone network has begun advertising packages for consumers, offering a 500MB download deal for the equivalent of about 2,800 baht per month.
Prices in Thailand for 4G service have not yet been established.
Lao Telecoms will extend the 4G network to the provinces "at the end of this year or early next year", Mr Thongsay said.
Laos became the second Asean member to open 4G service, after Singapore. Most countries in the region are working on 4G network expansion, although one is not.
Top executives of Advanced Info Service (AIS), Total Access Communication (Dtac) and True Move yesterday held a joint forum to challenge authorities to scrutinise the auction process.
The three operators, however, have not yet specified how much they plan to charge customers for 3G voice and data services, saying they need to complete calculations of their actual investment costs before determining the rates. The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has asked the bidders to slash charges for voice and data services by 15-20% before they begin offering 3G services.
"We are willing to comply with the NBTC's requirement," said Wichian Mektrakarn, chief executive of AIS.
"But if the required rates are unacceptable, we might not be able to comply with the authority's demands," he said, adding that negotiated rates could be settled in court.
He said that unlike other auctions such as for vehicles where the highest bidders win, the spectrum auction was designed to benefit all parties, including the public, and private mobile operators, to ensure they will provide fair services in the long run.
Bandwidth is a not an exhaustible resource, and could be reallocated in the future, he added.
Mr Wichian agreed that investigations into the auction process are essential to ensure public confidence.
He said, however, that he supported the NBTC's decision to press ahead with the 3G auction as Thailand could not afford further delays.
True's vice-chairman Athueck Asva-nont said if the 3G auction results were voided, he could not imagine what would happen with the next spectrum auction.
Darmp Sukontasap, chief of corporate affairs at Dtac, said 3G services are being introduced late in Thailand compared with other countries.
Japan began using 3G in 2001, South Korea in 2002 and neighbouring Asean countries introduced 3G before 2010, Mr Darmp said.
Meanwhile, 11 senators led by Paiboon Nititawan asked the ombudsman in their petition yesterday to seek a ruling from the Administrative Court whether the NBTC's telecom committee had the legal authority to endorse the results of the auction.
Citing constitutional studies, laws and regulations, the group argues that the NBTC telecom committee was not authorised to endorse the Oct 16 auction and the authority to do so actually lies with the NBTC's main committee.
"Sections 47 and 245 of the charter state that the authority to allocate the frequency lies only with the NBTC, whereas the telecom committee is only responsible for governing telecom affairs," said Mr Paiboon.
The telecom committee probably has the authority to give opinions about the results but it could never be authorised to endorse them or issue the 3G licences, he added.
The NBTC had stated when it anounced the auction that it was solely responsible for endorsing the bidding results, said Mr Paiboon.
Therefore, the telecom committee's approval of the bidding results contradicts the announcement issued before the auction, he said.
Chief ombudsman Panit Nitithanprapas said the Ombudsman's Office has received three petitions regarding the 3G auction so far, including the one submitted by the 11 senators.
Speaking after receiving the senators' petition, she said the first petition was submitted by Suriyasai Katasila, coordinator of the Green Politics group, and the second one by the state enterprise committee of TOT Plc.
A group of TOT Plc employees has also petitioned the ombudsman to investigate whether the 3G auction was lawful and if the NBTC's auction approach obstructed free competition in the bidding which should have brought maximum benefits to the state.
Wichian Mektrakarn, chief executive of AIS; Darmp Sukontasap, Dtac’s chief of corporate affairs; and Athueck Asvanont, vice-chairman of True. They all insist that the bidding for the 3G spectrum auction was transparent. THITI WANNAMONTHA
About the author
Writer: Komsan Tortermvasana & Mongkol Bangprapa