Ombudsman tells court 3G auction breached charter

The Office of the Ombudsman yesterday told the Administrative Court that the auction of 2.1GHz 3G spectrum slots was in breach of the charter.

Chalermsak Chantaratim, the office's secretary-general, gave the statement to the court which yesterday held an urgent inquiry about the Oct 16 auction.

The Office of the Ombudsman lodged a petition with the court last Thursday seeking the cancellation of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission's (NBTC) auction on the grounds that its structure did not allow for free and fair competition or bring maximum benefits to the country.

The agency also asked the court to issue an injunction to suspend temporarily the NBTC's plan to grant licences to the three bid winners.

Advanced Wireless Network, Real Future and DTAC Network won the 2.1GHz spectrum slots and were expected to be issued operating licences in mid-December.

Under the terms of the auction, the commission must grant the licences within 90 days of approving the bid outcome. Its telecom committee endorsed the bids on Oct 18.

Mr Chalermsak said he told the court how the auction was unconstitutional and why an injunction was necessary while the case was being considered.

"Under the Frequency Allocation Law, once the licences are granted, it is a done deal. So we pointed out that if the licences are granted while the legality of the auction is still in question, damage to the state will be huge," he said.

Mr Chalermsak said that once they receive the licences the bidders would make investments. Their businesses would be adversely affected if their licences were revoked later.

He said he was informed by the court that it would speed up its deliberations and make a ruling as soon as possible.

NBTC representatives will today give statements to the Administrative Court.

The court is expected to rule whether or not to grant an injunction to suspend the 3G licensing today or tomorrow.

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Writer: Mongkol Bangprapa
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