By USANEE MONGKOLPORN
All 27 representatives from the three big companies were locked up tightly in three bidding rooms. They could leave to go to the toilet and smoke, but only with escorts.
In their rooms were plenty of snacks and a refrigerator full of drinks. It was well beyond what they could consume. Lunch was scheduled to be served at noon, before the fourth round of bidding started at 1pm.
But at the end of the day, there were no more snacks left and only a few bottles of water in the fridge.
After the third round ended slightly before noon, all the bidding executives, who had arrived early in the morning at the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission’s head office, were eagerly waiting for lunch. But the food didn’t come until nearly 1pm.
The Nation has learned that on the historic day, when telecom licences were issued in lieu of conventional concessions, nearly all the NBTC members were present at the building. Top officials from the Office of the Auditor-General and more than 50 others were also on hand to observe the proceedings – a long-awaited auction of slots on the 2.1-megahertz spectrum for third-generation wireless broadband service.
Lunch was first sent to the boardroom for the commissioners and guests. As there were more observers than expected, the batch prepared for the executives also went straight to the boardroom. A new set then had to be cooked for the executives, which is why delivery was so late.
If anything, this could explain why the NBTC fetched less than Bt42 billion from the auction, which was expected to yield the full assessed value of the spectrum of nearly Bt60 billion.
Six of the nine slots went for exactly the reserve price, indicating that there was no competitive bidding for them at all.
This made a mockery of all the months of preparation and the cost of more than Bt50 million to hold the anxiously awaited bid.