NBTC mulls payment reprieve following 5G spectrum auctions

NBTC mulls payment reprieve following 5G spectrum auctions

The telecom regulator is considering allowing a three-year grace period for licence payments for the upcoming auction on a series of spectrum ranges meant for 5G development to attract them to invest in network infrastructure.

Two sets of multi-band ranges are set to be put on auction.

The first batch, scheduled to be auctioned early next year, comprises the 2600-megahertz band and the remaining portions of the 700MHz and 26-28GHz bands.

The second batch, which is scheduled to be auctioned by October 2020, consists of the 3400-3700MHz range and the remaining portion of the 1800MHz band.

Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), said the agency's working group is in the process of drafting rules and regulations on the spectrum auctions.

The regulations will be finalised for a public hearing by November, he said.

"The grace period for licence payment is needed to ease the huge burden on operators' shoulders," said Mr Takorn.

"Several countries are considering this option to help promote 5G development in their economy, including Vietnam and Singapore."

The grace period, he said, will help accelerate 5G adoption in the country by 2020 as planned by the government.

The 2600MHz band is held by state-owned broadcaster MCOT, who is obliged to return the unused 190MHz on the spectrum in exchange for compensation from the NBTC.

The NBTC has contracted two universities and the Thailand Development Research Institute to appraise the compensation.

The 3400-3700MHz ranges are partly used by satellite business provider Thaicom. The NBTC is considering recalling a combined 180MHz of the ranges' bandwidth.

Additionally, the NBTC is considering recalling 3GHz of bandwidth on the 26-28GHz spectra that are held by Thaicom.

To drive 5G development there needs to be demand for the service from vertical industries and direct investment in infrastructure from major mobile operators, Mr Takorn said.

The three operators are shouldering financial burdens from 3G and 4G licence auctions worth a combined 300 billion baht.

Each operator was estimated to have spent 100 billion baht a year on the network expansion over the past four years.

He said 5G development benefits not only telecom operators, but also other industries such as manufacturing, agriculture, logistics, healthcare and transport.

Many manufacturers are expected to capitalise on 5G-based spectrum following the first auction, said Mr Takorn. He was speaking on the sidelines of the 9th ITU-NBTC Asia-Pacific regulators' roundtable forum in Bangkok yesterday. Mr Takorn said striking a balance between efforts to regulate the telecom industry and consumer interest is important.

He said each country in Asia-Pacific faces different challenges in the digital era and they need to work together to exchange expertise. The NBTC predicts 5G services to generate 2.3 trillion baht in economic benefits globally by 2035.

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