DTAC casts doubt on 2nd 900MHz bid

DTAC casts doubt on 2nd 900MHz bid

Unpredictable costs, risks cited by firm

The second planned auction of the 900-megahertz spectrum licence is again fraught with uncertainty as Total Access Communication (DTAC) expressed doubts about bidding after the telecom regulator rejected its request to lower the reserve price.

Rajiv Bawa, DTAC's chief of corporate affairs and business development, said it's very difficult to bid if the critical conditions are not changed because it would cause operational risks and the costs would be unpredictable.

On Monday, DTAC raised concerns over conditions for the planned 900MHz auction, saying the conditions create ambiguous responsibilities for bid winners.

The auction's conditions were announced in the Royal Gazette on July 9, stating the winner of the 900MHz licence is solely responsible for any and all interference with Thailand's upcoming railway projects, which are to use both the 850MHz and 900MHz bands.

Mr Rajiv said the reduction of the reserve price for the 900MHz licence from 38 billion to 36 billion baht will not cover the cost of filters or implementation on other operators' and the railways' radio equipment. The installation of filters at other operators' base stations, also required for the winning bidder, is not possible in practice, he said.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) reserves the right to reshuffle the spectrum if needed, with the licensee responsible for any additional filter installations. This represents an unprecedented level of risk and uncertainty for the bidder in the 900MHz spectrum auction, said Mr Rajiv.

"DTAC has no idea how many stations there will be for the upcoming railway project and it is hard to forecast the cost of equipment installation," he said.

Mr Rajiv said Tuesday the firm is waiting for a response from the telecom regulator.

The latest announcement came after he and his team Tuesday met with Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of NBTC. But Mr Takorn said the NBTC disagrees with DTAC's latest proposal, adding the 36 billion baht reserve price is reasonable.

"It has already been reduced from 38 billion baht because a study by the NBTC's technical team found that the cost of filter installation at other operators' base stations to be 2.1 billion baht," he said.

Mr Takorn said there are only 13,000 base stations for all operators servicing the 850 and 900MHz spectra.

To ease the winner's responsibility for the 900MHz licence, Mr Takorn said the NBTC is drafting a new announcement (which will be attached to the existing conditions), expected to be published before the Aug 8 submission deadline.

The new announcement will clarify that the winner of the 900MHz auction will be responsible for installation of filters at other operators' base stations, not exceeding 13,000 stations.

He said while the exact number of railway projects for the next three years is unknown, initial costs for the signal interference system is 500 million baht.

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