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Telecom industry watches closely as Jasmine due to pay licence fee today

Mar 21. 2016
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ALL EYES are on Jas Mobile Broadband to see if it comes to pay the telecom regulator the first instalment of the 900MHz licence upfront fee and post bank guarantees for the remaining payments by today’s 4.30pm deadline.
Jas could also fail to come, or ask the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission for a postponement.
A source on the board of Jasmine International, parent of Jas, said executives reported to the board on March 7 that the company had obtained funding from financial sources in China with the support of Chinese telecom equipment vendor Huawei Technologies. 
However, the picture will become clearer today.
Jas quoted Bt75.65 billion to win the licence in the December auction. 
The other winner, TrueMove H Universal Communication (TUC), paid the fee on March 11 and picked up its licence on March 14. 
The NBTC gave the two winners 30 days to pay the first instalment of Bt8.04 billion and place bank guarantees. 
If Jas fails to make the deadline, the Telecom Committee will encash Jas’ Bt644-million guarantee placed before the licence auction. Jas might also face a legal claim from the watchdog for damage in the case. It might also be banned by the NBTC from pitching for its telecom development projects.
Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the NBTC, said the Telecom Committee plans to open another round of bidding for Jas’ 900MHz spectrum lot in three to four months if Jas fails to pay the instalment. The starting bid will be Bt75.65 billion.
If Jas makes the instalment payment, it will have to wait until April 15 to be able to use the licence. 
The Central Administrative Court on March 15 accepted a petition from Advanced Info Service to order the Telecom Committee to delay the end of AIS’ 900MHz service from March 15 to April 14. 
AIS had told the court that it needed to give more time to its 900MHz customers to port their mobile phone numbers to another network.
The 900MHz spectrum lot assigned to Jas had been used by AIS until its concession expired in September. It was reallocated via the auction last December.
Even if Jas can pay the first upfront-fee instalment, industry observers believe the new player will have to face many challenges, including intense competition from the three incumbent players.
Another main challenge will be the time it takes to roll out the network and to integrate the network with Clearinghouse Co, which was founded by five telecom operators to facilitate mobile-number porting. 
The system lets subscribers transfer their existing mobile phone numbers to another network so they can continue to use the same number.
Last December, Pete Bhodaramik, chief executive officer of Jas, said Jas would roll out 15,000 base stations nationwide to cover 90 per cent of the population this year. 
It will not invest in its own 2G network, just on a 4G network. It will lease the 2G networks of state telecoms to provide 2G-900MHz service.
A telecom industry pundit believes that Jas will compete mainly with the No 3 player, TUC, not the market leader like AIS. This suggests that True is expected to be sandwiched by AIS and Jas.
As of last year, AIS’ market share was 52 per cent, DTAC’s 28.6 per cent and True’s 19.4 per cent.

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