ICT minister, CAT boss float 4G bid delay

ICT minister, CAT boss float 4G bid delay

No end in sight over spectrum deadlock

Thailand's fourth-generation (4G) spectrum auction scheduled for the end of the year should be put off for another few months to ensure its design delivers the best value for the nation, two key leaders say.

The suggestion was raised by the minister of information and communication technology and the head of CAT Telecom.

ICT Minister Pornchai Rujiprapa had said he fully supported an offer by mobile operator Total Access Communication Plc (DTAC) to return its unused five megahertz of bandwidth on the 1800-MHz frequency for the 4G spectrum auction.

But he urged the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to pay compensation in exchange for the additional five MHz of bandwidth.

"Compensation is needed for CAT for fair treatment, as the state telecom enterprise has to return the bandwidth three years before its mobile concession [with concessionaire DTAC] expires in 2018," Mr Pornchai said.

The NBTC plans to auction off two licences for 25 MHz of bandwidth on the 1800-MHz spectrum, each containing 12.5 MHz of bandwidth. The auction is scheduled for Nov 11.

Having an additional five MHz of bandwidth on the 1800-MHz spectrum would allow for a contiguous spectrum and eliminate the inefficiency and waste inherent in block sizes.

Mr Pornchai acknowledged that the NBTC could not provide any compensation to CAT for the return of the bandwidth, citing restrictions stipulated by the Frequency Allocation Act.

The NBTC wants to avoid any further delay of the planned 4G spectrum auction.

Mr Pornchai said the ministry planned to hold talks with the NBTC secretary-general next week on whether the regulator should delay 4G auctions for an extra few months until the draft NBTC bill is completed.

The existing draft NBTC bill gives the commission greater authority in areas of spectrum reallocation.

The legislation is aimed at helping the NBTC reclaim unused spectra and reallocate them for public use.

Col Sanpachai Huvanandana, CAT Telecom's acting chief executive, said he personally would like clarity on the return of the five MHz but had not discussed the issue with the NBTC.

"I agree that if the auction is delayed for a few months for the benefit of the country and the industry it will not cause serious damage," he said.

DTAC holds 50 MHz of bandwidth on the 1800-MHz spectrum, 25 MHz of which are unused.

NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith has insisted the return of CAT's concession spectrum must come without any conditions and be made before July 17, the date set for the auction's public hearing. He said he had not had any indication from either the government or the ad hoc national digital economy committee of further delay to the auction.

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