TDRI: AIS should be allowed to buy JAS licence
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TDRI: AIS should be allowed to buy JAS licence

The chairman of a think tank has urged the telecom regulator to allow Advanced Info Service (AIS) to buy the licence won by Jasmine International (JAS) at the 4G 900-megahertz frequency auction in December last year.

"This is a miraculous solution — a true Thai way of solving problem," Somkiat Tangkitvanich, chairman of the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), wrote on Facebook on Thursday.

AIS, the second highest bidder after JAS for one of the two lots at the auction, offered to buy the licence at 75.65 billion baht, the same price JAS had offered, after JAS failed to make the first payment to the NBTC.

JAS bid through its subsidiary JAS Mobile Broadband Co while AIS did so through its unit, Advanced Wireless Network Co.

However, the NBTC is bound by the Frequency Allocation Act to grant frequencies only through auctions — it cannot simply hand them over to a company at will.

But since the junta's chief has absolute power under Section 44 of the interim charter, the NBTC asked him to break the deadlock and allow AIS to buy the spectrum. 

Mr Somkiat did not say outright that Section 44 should be invoked to solve the problem but said if anyone was willing to pay the same price for the licence, the government had nothing to lose.

"It's less risky than holding a new auction in June, which may or may not fetch that price. In any case, the NBTC should make clear what it would do with the money," he said.

The TDRI chairman added before the NBTC did that, it should ask other operators whether they were willing to pay more than what AIS had offered. If one or more of them does, a new auction should be held without delay.

"But if no one else's interested, AIS should be allowed to buy. After all, with the frequencies, the company can solve the problem of SIM shutdown."

Mr Somkiat also suggested to avoid adverse effects on consumers and business uncertainties in the future, the NBTC should hold a spectrum auction well before its existing licence expires, perhaps one year in advance.

JAS's failure to pay for the licence by the March 21 deadline has complicated the situation as the spectrum it had won is being used by AIS. The terms of the auction require that all spectra put on the block have to be returned to the NBTC once a winner makes the first payment. True, the other winner for Lot 2 at the auction, did that on March 14.

AIS is rushing to move its 1 million users on the 900MHz spectrum to other frequencies. It asked the Central Administrative Court to grant it an injunction that would allow it to continue using the frequencies for another month or until midnight next Thursday.

AIS shares (ADVANC) plunged 6.13% to 153 baht on the Stock Exchange of Thailand on Thursday while JAS shares rose 2.84% to 3.62 baht. 

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