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New telecom player could spur rivalry

Dec 20. 2015
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By Usanee Mongkolporn,

Jas and True win fierce bidding for 900mhz licences for Bt75-76 billion

The telecom sector has entered a new chapter with an emerging fourth major wireless broadband player Jas Mobile Broadband, which is expected to spark fierce competition in the market next year.

But it remains to be seen if the new kid on the block can become an attractive choice for consumers and pry a noticeable market share from the strong grip of three dominant players.

Jas Mobile’s director Sombat Punsiripat said after the auction ended on 12.15am on Saturday that Jas was well prepared to bid for the licence and everything went as planned.

Pete Bhodaramik, chief executive officer of Jas parent, Jasmine International, will hold press conference tomorrow to talk about the company’s winning bid for a 900MHz licence.

To everyone’s surprise, the newly founded subsidiary of Jasmine turned out to be one of two winners in the relentless bidding for two 900MHz spectrum licences, which started on Tuesday. After almost 66 hours of bids (excluding two three-hour breaks each morning and  night), Jas offered Bt75.65 billion – in round 199 – to win the first licence block.

The other winner is True Move H Universal Communication (TUC)

of True Corp. It grabbed the second lot by with an offer of Bt76.298 billion.

Advanced Wireless Network, of the market leader Advanced Info Service, and DTAC TriNet, of Total Access Communication, had been tipped as the mostly likely licence winners prior to the auction. Their final offers were Bt75.976 billion and Bt70.180 billion, respectively.

But AWN and TUC had already won 1800MHz licences in bidding last month, which Jas and DTAC also took part in.

NBTC telecom commissioner Prawit Leesatapornwongsa said he did not think AIS and DTAC were ‘hit hard’ by failing to snatch the 900MHz licences, given they still have multiple spectrum bands to offer service.

True’s fierce bids for the 1800MHz and 900MHz licences showed its strong intent to become the top player, he added.

Jas ‘may team up with partner’

The high bid prices raised the question of Jas’ profitability and capacity to recoup its investment from the licence. Prawit expected Jas to seek partnership with incumbents who failed to clinch licences – to jointly offer service, in order to help it cut operating costs.

AIS said it decided to drop out of the 900MHz bidding because, as it is a listed company, all such moves require careful analysis of risks and opportunities for the best business interest. From its careful study, the bidding price at some points exceeded expected fair value.

And according to the NBTC, there will be auctions in the future when the company can acquire more spectra. Last month, AWN was also awarded a 1800MHz spectrum to operate 4G service that it will launch as soon as possible. With all these factors, AIS still has a strong network and resources to effectively serve customers.

With the decision to drop out of the auction, AIS can allocate cash

to quickly roll out its 4G network and boost its existing 3G network, while maintaining strong financial health to be ready for future competition.

DTAC said it would allocate capital to further expand its existing 3G and 4G network and services.

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