Thailand mulling 'package bidding' for auction

National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission may let bidders submit a single bid for a group of frequencies or licencees to encourage fair competition.

A common practice internationally, "package bidding" allows bidders to make a single bid for a group of frequencies or licencees.

Thailand's telecoms regulator is considering a form of group bidding commonly used worldwide for the country's expiring mobile concessions on the 1800- and 900MHz spectra.

According to The Bangkok Post on Thursday, "package bidding" enables bidders to make a single bid for a group of frequencies or licencees.

If adopted, the move is aimed at encouraging fair competition among multiple bidders, said Settapong Malisuwan, chairman of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

The concessions for True Corporation unit, True Move, and Digital Phone Co (DPC), which is an Advanced Info Services (AIS) unit using 25MHz of the 1800 MHz spectrum, will expire on September 15, under agreements with CAT Telecom. In September 2015, AIS' concession under its agreement with Thai telco TOT using 17.5Mhz of the 900MHz spectrum will also expire.

The NBTC had announced plans to farm out 25MHz of 1800MHz spectrum in an auction slated for the third quarter of next year , as its current contract with state-owned CAT Telecom expires this September. Now that True Move and DPC's concessions are also nearing expiry, simultaneous package bidding is necessary, Malisuwan said.

He said the NBTC may pack the 25MHz on the 1800MHz spectrum, with the 17.5MHz on the 900MHz spectrum for simultaneous action. Alternatively, the 1800MHz and 900MHz frequencies could also be further upgraded to LTE, he noted.

The NBTC is also preparing measures to deal with possible service disruptions for the estimated 17 million subscribers of True Move and DPC once their concession expire. Under the regulator's masterplan for frequency management, concession holders must return spectra to the watchdog after their concessions expire.

However, Malisuwan said with "package bidding", slots of both frequencies will still be capped for each bidder for maximum benefit to the government and to encourage fair competition. The telecom committee on Wednesday also approved the setting up of a one-year subcommittee to oversee frequency allocation for the 1800MHz spectrum.