DTAC makes about-face on auction

DTAC makes about-face on auction

Firm ready to make 850MHz spectrum bid

After rejecting the national telecom regulator's initial conditions, Total Access Communication (DTAC)'s chief executive has finally committed to entering the 850-megahertz spectrum auction next month after submitting an officially signed letter to the regulator on Monday, says an NBTC commissioner.

The latest move came after Lars Norling and his team met the secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) on Friday for an informal discussion regarding the regulator's new conditions for the planned 850MHz and 1800MHz auctions.

DTAC Monday submitted an official letter to the regulator regarding the announced auction of the 850MHz spectrum.

After receiving DTAC's letter, the NBTC board Monday held a meeting and approved a resolution for a new timeline and conditions for the auction.

According to that resolution, the 1800MHz licences will be divided into nine slots, with each comprising 10MHz of bandwidth (upload and download) instead of three licences with 30MHz each, as initially scheduled.

There is only one licence for the 850MHz auction, with the licence containing 10MHz of bandwidth (upload and download).

A source at DTAC urged the NBTC to divide the existing 90MHz of bandwidth into nine slots, providing more flexible conditions for bidders, including the licence auction cost.

The auction for the 1800-megahertz spectrum was aborted after the country's three largest mobile operators failed to submit bid documents on June 15.

The NBTC is keeping the reserve price of both spectra based on the winning price for the previous auctions for the 1800MHz and 900MHz spectra in 2015. The letter submitted by DTAC Monday did not express opposition to the reserve price, although the company said it is still expensive.

The source said the latest move by DTAC was sparked by the NBTC's decision to scrap the existing remedy period planned to mitigate the impact of DTAC's concession expiry, meaning DTAC's 470,000 mobile users on the 1800MHz and 850MHz concessions would have to transfer to other networks before the Sept 15 expiry date.

"The 850MHz licence may be the first priority for DTAC because the low-band spectrum is crucial to DTAC, while the 1800MHz will be considered thereafter," said the source.

NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said the regulator welcomed DTAC's change of heart on the auction.

DTAC now operates mobile service though the 1800MHz and 850MHz spectra under a concession from CAT Telecom.

In its letter, DTAC said if it joins the 850MHz auction and acquires a licence, the company would need to maintain 20MHz of bandwidth, in line with the original conditions of the CAT concession, for another two years.

DTAC said it now has 13,000 base stations under the 850MHz concession. The company said it needs time to optimise the equipment in compliance with the NBTC's plan to expand the 850MHz range to 900MHz.

Mr Takorn said the winner of the 850MHz licence may have to install a system preventing signal interference between the planned 850MHz slot and another block set aside for a yet-to-be-realised high-speed train project.

For the resolution of the new timeline and conditions for the 1800MHz licence auction, the NBTC will conduct an online public hearing from June 26-28.

Interested companies can pick up bidding documents between July 6 and Aug 7 and the submission date is Aug 8, while the auction is planned for Aug 19.

Each slot of the 1800MHz spectrum will start at a reserve price of 12.48 billion baht based on the winning price of the previous 1800MHz auction in 2015. Each participant can bid on a maximum of four slots or a combined 40MHz of bandwidth (upload and download).

For the 850MHz licence auction, interested firms can pick bid documents between July 6 and August 7 and the submission date is on Aug 8.

The NBTC will auction one 850MHz license on Aug 18 with a reserve price of 38 billion baht, based on the winning price of the 900MHz license in 2015.

Mr Takorn said if there is only one prospective bidder for either auction, the auction date will be extend by another 30 days.

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