Thailand’s National Broadcasting & Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has approved a schedule for auctioning 2100MHz 3G mobile network operating licences later this year. The chairman of the regulator’s telecoms committee, Settapong Malisuwan, confirmed that a bidding auction for the long-awaited frequencies is planned for either September or October 2012, local newspaper The Nation reports. According to the timetable, an open invitation to bidders will be made in June, but firstly NBTC must draft a detailed auction plan, propose the starting price of the licences and hold a public hearing on the plan in March-April. In May it intends to release the finalised auction rules. The telecoms committee must set up three working groups to examine the legal aspects of the auction, revise the draft rules for network infrastructure sharing and draw up regulations for the cellular network roaming reference fee, the report added. The NBTC is also examining existing regulations aimed at restricting foreign dominance of telecoms operators, with a view to revise clauses that apparently contradict Thailand’s international trade commitments – previously thought to be amongst the factors putting off new foreign investment in the sector. A 3G auction advisor must also be chosen, and the watchdog is reported to be considering hiring US firm Nera Economic Consulting, which was previously used by the NBTC’s predecessor, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ahead of the country’s aborted 2100MHz auction in 2010. The ill-fated 3G plan was suspended in September that year under a court action initiated when state-owned telco CAT Telecom challenged the NTC’s authority to issue third-generation frequencies – the complaint was upheld under a legal clause requiring the formation of the NBTC as combined broadcasting and telecoms regulator with powers to allocate the 3G spectrum resources.
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