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NBTC lands Bt56 bn in spectrum sale

Jun 19. 2019
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THE National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) will gain Bt56.444 billion from the sale yesterday of three slots of the 700MHz spectrum to three telecom operators.

Some Bt36 billion of that amount, which includes value-added tax, will be put to use under the NBTC’s plan to ease the financial burden of the holders of digital TV broadcasting licences. The remainder will be sent to the state coffers.

 The three buyers – subsidiaries of Advanced Info Service (AIS), Total Access Communication (DTAC) and True Corp – picked up each of the 700MHz slots when the watchdog put them on sale yesterday.

Buying the 700MHz slots means they all now meet the junta’s condition that the purchases entitle them to the right to pay the upfront instalments of their existing 900MHz licences over a longer period than under the originally set four instalments.

The 700MHz licences are valid from October 1 next year or otherwise rescheduled by the NBTC. No matter which date applies, the operators must make their first instalments 15 days beforehand.

 The NBTC wants these operators to provide 5G services on the 700MHz spectrum. As none of them selected the same 700MHz slot yesterday, there was no need for them to draw lots for targeted slots.

True subsidiary TrueMove H Universal Communication (TUC) yesterday selected the pair of 703-713MHz and 758-768MHz.

 DTAC subsidiary dtac TriNet chose the pair of 713-723MHz and 768-778MHz.

 AIS subsidiary Advanced Wireless Network (AWN) selected the pair of 723-733MHz and 778-788MHz.

The NBTC sold three slots at the 700MHz spectrum at Bt17.584 billion each. Each slot features a 2x10MHz bandwidth. The licence term will be 15 years and payments for the licence are divided into 10 instalments.

DTAC chief executive officer Alexandra Reich said yesterday that this low-band spectrum would further enhance DTAC’s service offerings as it is committed to the continual improvement of its network quality.

Alexandra Reich

 DTAC believes that this investment will provide significant benefits as the 700 MHz spectrum can be used for 5G.

In a DTAC press release yesterday, Reich said that the 700 MHz spectrum will boost the company’s network coverage nationwide, resulting in an improved mobile internet experience in remote areas in addition to higher capacity for urban users.

She stressed that despite the possibility of using 700 MHz for 5G services, the NBTC has yet to develop a clear 5G spectrum roadmap for both high- and low-band spectrum.

 “Thailand is moving towards a full digital society, in which the readiness of 5G is a key element,” Reich said. “Therefore, a clear spectrum roadmap is critical to the industry because it helps us create effective long-term investment plans to build infrastructure that can help boost the country’s economy.”

AIS chief executive officer Somchai Lertsutiwong said yesterday that AIS had considered carefully its needs for current and future spectrum use before making the final decision to buy the slot.

He added that the acquisition of 700MHz spectrum license marked an important execution in preparation for 5G technology, which was to take place in the next 2-3 years. Meanwhile, the readiness of 700MHz-compatible network equipment, customer devices as well as 5G use cases will become more prevalent during those periods. It is expected that 5G commercial services will involve Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality in entertainment and gaming, Internet of Things (IoT), and Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) service as well as Private Network for Enterprises, all of which are to become potential new revenue streams for telecommunication industry.

AIS CEO Somchai, left, with NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith, centre

Currently, the digital TV broadcasters use part of the 700MHz spectrum to air TV programmes.

NBTC secretary- general Takorn Tantasith said that he had urged the digital TV broadcasting network providers to finish adjusting the 700MHz band to allow these three telecom operators to share the spectrum use on the same 700MHz band. He added that they should finish the adjustment by July next year.

True vice chairman of the executive committee Vichaow Rakphongphairoj, right

The NBTC’s sale of the 700MHz slots is related to the junta’s recent launch of relief measures to ease the financial burden of AWN, TUC, and dtac TriNet, as well as the digital TV broadcasters. 

Under the relief measures, the NBTC will split the total upfront licence fee for the 900MHz spectrum of these three licence holders into total 10 instalments, giving them more time to make payments from the current four instalments.

However, the junta’s relief measures include a condition that makes it mandatory for any 900MHz licence holder taking up the relief measures to purchase a 700MHz spectrum slot. 

If they decline to buy the slots, they will lose the longer instalment plan and would have to pay as per the original payment schedule.

Under the original schedule, AWN and TUC are scheduled to pay hefty final instalments of Bt59.574 billion and Bt60.218 billion, respectively, for their 900MHz licences next year. 

DTAC TriNet is due to pay its Bt30.024 billion final instalment for the 900MHz band in 2022.


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