Big 3 tepid on 700MHz bid as financial burden weighs

Big 3 tepid on 700MHz bid as financial burden weighs

The country's three major mobile operators are wavering on the 700-megahertz spectrum auction scheduled for May, citing the existing financial burden from previous auctions and planned infrastructure costs for future 5G development.

True Corporation, the parent company of True Move H Universal Communication (TUC), yesterday said formally that it does not plan to participate in the auction, as the company is awaiting clarity on the 900MHz licence payment extension.

The 900MHz licence payment is a heavy burden for TUC and Advanced Info Service (AIS), the two winners of the auction in 2015 -- especially for 2020, for which the last instalment payment by AIS and TUC is 60 billion baht each.

As of now, AIS and Total Access Communication (DTAC) have yet to express interest in joining the auction.

Meanwhile, the telecom regulator insisted that it will proceed with the planned auction of 700MHz, saying all the suggestions and concerns of related parties will be raised at the public forum.

True plans to pass

Vichaow Rakphongphairoj, co-group president of True Corp, said yesterday that the company has no plans to take part in the 700MHz auction.

Mr Vichaow said True now has sufficient low-band frequency on 850MHz and 900MHz to reallocate bandwidth to support fifth-generation wireless broadband services.

"The company's main focus is its consecutive revenue and margin growth, as well as cash flow improvement," he said.

Previously, True executives said the cost of new licences and availability of spectrum bandwidth in the market were two critical factors for the success of 5G adoption in Thailand.

Mr Vichaow said the most critical barrier to operators is the remaining licence payment term of the 900MHz licences from the 2015 auction.

The NBTC auctioned two licences of the 900MHz band in 2015 at a combined 151 billion baht. AIS won a licence for 75.65 billion baht and True Move won another for 76.3 billion.

AIS and True Move have to pay the remaining two instalments in 2019 and 2020.

"If the existing term of the 900MHz licences payment is extended, it would help very much in easing the financial burden and encourage operators to invest in 5G infrastructure," Mr Vichaow told the Bangkok Post.

AIS yet to decide

Somchai Lertsutiwong, chief executive of AIS, yesterday declined to comment on plans for the 700MHz auction.

Mr Somchai previously said that any investment by the company would require a careful decision with regard to several factors, including proper cost, return on investment and feasibility.

DTAC: Roadmap a priority

Rajiv Bawa, chief of corporate affairs and business development at DTAC, said a clear spectrum roadmap is the main priority for the industry.

Mr Bawa said that with Thailand moving towards digitisation and 5G readiness, a structured investment plan for digital infrastructure is essential.

"Before announcing another auction, NBTC should prioritise putting a clear spectrum roadmap in place. As Thailand is moving towards full digitalisation and 5G readiness, It is critical for the whole industry, not only to have a clearer view on the full spectrum availability, but to better plan long term investments," he said.

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