The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) on Thursday finally approved a plan to auction off the 1800-megahertz spectrum for fourth-generation (4G) mobile broadband service in September 2014.
The green light came amid heavy criticism by professionals and academics of the draft, saying the national telecom regulator could be violating telecom law.
The bid winners will be officially announced one month after the auction and licences awarded in early November.
The 25-MHz bandwidth of the 1800-MHz spectrum is now operated by True Move, a unit of True Corporation, and Digital Phone Co (DPC), a unit of Advanced Info Service, under agreements with CAT Telecom. Concessions of the two companies with state-owned CAT will expire nest month.
Under the Frequency Allocation Act, concessionaires must return spectrum to the NBTC after concessions expire, then the regulator will reallocate the spectra via an auction.
The NBTC drafted a regulation overseeing the existing 17 million mobile customers using 2G service on the 1800-MHz spectrum, allowing True Move and DPC to continue operating 2G for one more year as a transition period after their concessions expire.
Col Settapong Malisuwan, chairman of the NBTC's telecom committee, said a consulting team will begin studying the details of the spectrum auction next month and make its conclusions by next February.
The regulator plans to draft an information memorandum for the 1800-MHz auction in December, with the finished version due next March.
Col Settapong insists an auction of the 1800-MHz spectrum before concessions expire, as demanded by academics, is impractical.
"We don't have the authority to force the 17 million customers to migrate to other networks," he said.
In addition, the NBTC may face a legal challenge by concession owner CAT.
Col Settapong acknowledged the auction of the 1800-MHz spectrum is much more complicated than that of the 2100-MHz spectrum for 3G use.
About the author
- Writer: Komsan Tortermvasana
Position: Senior Business Reporter