Thailand to auction 3G licences by Q1 2012

Thailand’s telecommunications and broadcasting regulator expects to auction off licenses to operate the frequency spectrum used for third-generation mobile phone services in the first quarter of 2012 at the earliest after outstanding legal issues are resolved, an acting member of the regulator said.

The frequency licensing move is seen as a key step in the continuing liberalization of Thailand’s telecom industry, which is dominated by two state-owned firms that hold rights to grant contracts to private operators. Analysts say progress on the 3G platform can provide substantial economic benefits for the country, where broadband penetration is relatively low.

In September 2010, a Thai court issued an injunction against the planned auction of 3G mobile licenses to private operators after state-owned firms CAT Telecom and TOT Corp. PCL filed petitions challenging the authority of the Thailand’s National Telecommunications Commission to allocate the 2.1-gigahertz frequency spectrum used for 3G services.

Click here to find out more!”The earliest (the auction can happen) should be by the first quarter of next year,” acting National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commissioner Natee Sukonrat said Tuesday in an interview with Dow Jones Newswires.”The auction of the 3G licenses have to be delayed until we have the new organization,” the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, which will have the legal authority to conduct the licensing.

The independent body, which will supervise Thailand’s telecom and broadcasting sectors, is likely to be formally established by mid-September, about one or two months after a new parliament is formed, Natee said. Until then, the NBTC’s responsibilities are being performed by its predecessor, the National Telecommunication Commission, of which Natee is a member.

Plans governing telecom and broadcasting management and frequency allocation–another prerequisite for frequency licensing–should be ready by early August, said Natee, who was attending the Nomura Asia Equity Forum in Singapore.

The delay in 3G licensing has forced Thailand’s major mobile phone operators to turn to high-speed packet access, or HSPA, technology to facilitate 3G services by upgrading their 850-900 megahertz frequencies, used for second-generation services. Some have scrambled to secure deals with state-owned CAT and TOT, to use their existing networks to start offering 3G mobile services.

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