TOT cleared for 4G offer on 2400 MHz
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TOT cleared for 4G offer on 2400 MHz

New revenue stream eyed post-concession

TOT only has 100,000 3G users.  PATTARAPONG CHATPATTARASIL
TOT only has 100,000 3G users.  PATTARAPONG CHATPATTARASIL

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has given TOT Plc the green light to upgrade its existing unused 2400-megahertz spectrum to provide fourth-generation wireless broadband service for 10 years.

The development will help TOT create a new revenue stream to offset vanished concession revenue, said NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith.

The regulator's telecom committee approved the TOT's proposal yesterday.

TOT now holds 64 MHz of unused bandwidth on the 2400-MHz spectrum. The frequency serves as transmission links for telecom services.

Mr Takorn said the regulator allowed the state telecom enterprise to develop 60 MHz of bandwidth to provide commercial 4G services nationwide. The remaining 4-MHz block size is a waste and has limited technical support to provide efficient service, he said.

"TOT will have the right to use the 2400-MHz spectrum to operate wireless broadband service until 2025 without an operating licence," said Mr Takorn.

The state enterprise is allowed to outline its network expansion plan and marketing strategy by itself, he said.

TOT acting president Monchai Noosong said earlier that TOT planned to start providing commercial 4G service on the 2400-MHz spectrum by mid-2016.

The enterprise will use its existing telecom infrastructure including 13,198 telecom towers to support 4G network expansion.

TOT also operates 3G service on the 2100-MHz spectrum via 5,320 base stations. It has only 100,000 active 3G subscribers.

The state telecom will only roll out 4G service in areas where it anticipates high demand, Mr Monchai said.

TOT has invited interested private companies to jointly develop wireless broadband services for the 2400-MHz spectrum.

The telecom committee also announced yesterday four qualified bidders for the 900-MHz spectrum auctions, scheduled to take place on Nov 12.

The four qualified bidders, who all submitted bidding documents with the NBTC, are Advanced Wireless Network, the 3G mobile unit of mobile leader Advanced Info Service; DTAC's subsidiary DTAC TriNet; True Move's subsidiary True Move H Universal Communication; and Jas Mobile Broadband, a subsidiary of Jasmine International.

The NBTC plans to auction two licences on the 900-MHz spectrum on Nov 12, each containing 10 MHz of bandwidth.

The reserve price for a 900-MHz licence is 12.9 billion baht or 80% of the estimated real spectrum value. Bids will increase in 644-million-baht increments. But if the price reaches 16.08 billion baht, bids will increase in 322-million-baht increments.

The reserve price will increase to 16 billion baht of the full spectrum value if there are only two bidders.

Mr Takorn said the NBTC had set strict measures to prevent collusion among the bidders for the 1800- and 900-MHz auctions.

"I can guarantee it will be very difficult for bidders to collude. If we find irregularities in the bidding, we will immediately initiate an investigation," he said.

The regulator demonstrated yesterday several potential bidding collusion scenarios for the 4G licences and how it would deal with them.

For instance, the auction needs to be verified if two bidders stop bidding after only two rounds of bidding, as stipulated in the auction rules, Mr Takorn said. This scenario could mean the bidders who stopped are letting the remaining two bidders win the licences.

Mr Takorn believes the auctions will be highly competitive with only a slim chance of possible collusion.

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