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Thai court defers order on 3G auction

Publication Date : 12-10-2012


Thailand's Central Administrative Court yesterday deferred a decision on whether to accept a petition filed by telecom scholar Anupap Tiralap, seeking a court order to suspend the national telecom regulator's auction of the 2.1 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum slots scheduled for next Tuesday.

The judges will consider the arguments by Anupap and the National Broadcasting and Telecommuni-cations Commission (NBTC) made during yesterday's hearing.

Court officials yesterday declined to say when the judges would make their decision. The judges will consider two issues - whether to accept the case, and whether to consider Anupap's plea to issue an injunction.

The court called an urgent hearing with Anupap yesterday.

NBTC commissioners Suthiphon Thaveechaiyagarn and Prasert Silphiphat also came to explain the case to the court yesterday.

Suthiphon said he told the court that according to an estimate by the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA), the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC)'s cancellation of the 2.1GHz spectrum auction two years ago caused an economic loss of 153.9 billion baht (US$5 billion) or 210 million baht per day, over the past two years. If this NBTC spectrum auction is delayed and the whole auction preparation process has to be restarted, which will take about eight months to finish, the economic loss would amount to 51.3 billion baht during these eight months, he said.

The NTC - the NBTC's predecessor - was scheduled to hold the 2.1GHz auction in September 2010 but it was suspended by an Administrative Court injunction in the same month following a petition by CAT Telecom, which challenged the NTC's licensing authority.

Suthiphon yesterday claimed he had evidence to prove that certain unnamed parties had a well-planned plot to sabotage the NBTC's spectrum auction.

NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasit said that if the court only accepts the case for hearing but does not issue an injunction, the NBTC would move ahead to auction the spectrum on October 16 as planned. The NBTC will not cancel the auction unless the court issues an injunction, he added.

Anupap wants the NBTC to suspend the auction, pending its complete issuance of key measures to bring optimal benefits to the population, including the determination of a maximum 3G-service fee. He said the watchdog must also make it obligatory for spectrum winners to completely roll out nationwide networks to cover the entire population, without a major time lapse between roll-out phases and regardless of different areas' income and service demand.

The three bidders have already sent to the NBTC yesterday name lists of representatives who will take part in the bid. Advanced Wireless Network of Advanced Info Service and Real Future of True Corp each will send 10 representatives to join the bid, while DTAC Network of Total Access Communication (DTAC), will send seven representatives, said Takorn. He declined to disclose their names.

The NBTC will call for bids on October 16 for nine slots of the 2.1GHz spectrum, each containing 5 megahertz of bandwidth, at a reserve price of 4.5 billion baht apiece. Each of the bidders can go for a maximum of three slots. The cost of holding the auction is 5 million baht.

The NBTC this week acknowledged that the watchdog was worried about possible lawsuits and scrutiny in the post-auction era. The auction terms and conditions have drawn criticism for allowing the three bidders to grab spectrum slots in what many expect to be a low-competition auction.

The bidding will take place at the NBTC's head office on Phaholyothin Road. The watchdog will hold a mock-up auction tomorrow.

Yesterday, it took the press to tour the rooms where the bidders will sit for the bidding. The NBTC has prepared three rooms for each of the bidders, and one back-up room. Computers have been installed in the rooms to place bids and they are connected to the auction-server system only, without Internet access.

The USB port slots on the computers will also be sealed before auction day for security reasons.

The NBTC has also prepared an auditorium in another building from where the press can observe the bidding. But they will be able to see only the quoted prices and which spectrum slots have provisional winners, but the provisional winners' identities will not be disclosed.

The NBTC will step up security during the auction with about 50 police officials deployed at its office.

The police officials and NBTC staff will also be deployed to stand guard at the door of bidders' rooms during the auction. The watchdog has also asked the police to patrol the area around its head office the night before auction day.

*US$1=30.6 baht


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