NBTC says axed bid is no obstacle to 5G
The telecom regulator insists that the failure of the planned 1800-megahertz auction on Aug 4 will not affect fifth-generation (5G) wireless broadband development in the country.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) strongly believes that the government will amend some conditions of the original auction's draft, eliminating inconveniences for prospective bidders.
Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the NBTC, said development of 5G is critical to the government's agenda as it aims for a working system by 2020.
"The government targets usable 5G in some areas of the country by 2020 because of outlays by telecom operators," he said.
Mr Takorn acknowledged that each major mobile operator plans to spend up to 50 billion baht for 5G adoption, investing in infrastructure and technology.
"The failure of the auction should not affect 5G development in the country," he said.
Mr Takorn said he expects the government to sincerely help remove any obstacles to the auction, particularly the extension of licence payment terms for the two winners (Advanced Info Service and True Move) of the 900MHz auction in 2015. True Move and AIS must pay a combined 120 billion baht for the last payment of their 900MHz licences in 2020.
Jarit Sidhu, head of operations for IDC Thailand, a global research firm, said the aborted auction affects nothing yet because operators have enough bandwidth to serve current demand. But in three years, available bandwidth is projected to be insufficient to support demand of mobile data usage, he said.
"The cancelled auction also does not affect 5G development, because there is no standard yet for bandwidth to be allocated for the 5G network," Mr Jarit said. "The bandwidth for 5G is higher than the 1800MHz band.
"It's not surprising why the three operators did not participate in this auction, as it's too costly and they have sufficient bandwidth to support their customers."
This year is unlike the auction two years ago, when bandwidth was deficient and a new player caused the auction price to rise, he said.
"Total Access Communication (DTAC) made a smart move because there is no auction on the 1800MHz spectrum, so it can continue to provide service to protect its consumers," Mr Jarit said.
He said the NBTC should consider smaller spectrum units of 5MHz instead of 15MHz to suit each operator's demands.
Thailand needs to have efficient frequency use because frequency is digital infrastructure that is important for the country's development, Mr Jarit said, adding that the country should reallocate under-utilised frequency such as the 700MHz band.
Passakorn Prathombutr, senior executive vice-president of the Digital Economy Promotion Agency, said the aborted auction will not affect 5G in Thailand, since mobile operators True Move and AIS offer a narrow-band Internet of Things network for supporting IoT use, while CAT Telecom uses the 920-925MHz band (previously used for radio-frequency identification) to offer an IoT network with LoRa.
"The coming 5G will support a reliable high-speed network with low latency, enabling applications such as connected cars," Mr Passakorn said.