December 3, 2012 / 8:40 AM / 7 years ago

UPDATE 1-Thai court rejects complaint against 3G auction

* Court says plaintiff has no authority to file suit

* Regulator can go ahead with 3G licencing plan

* True, Shin shares up; AIS, TAC down after recent gains (Adds quotes, details)

BANGKOK, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Thailand’s Central Administrative Court said on Monday it had rejected a petition to investigate a recent telecoms auction, a move that paves the way for the regulator to issue long-overdue licences for third-generation mobile services.

The ruling comes at a time the Thai mobile phone sector enjoys robust growth in data services, boosted by the popularity of smartphones and strong domestic consumption in the fast-growing Southeast Asian country.

The news sent some telecoms stocks up sharply in afternoon trade on Monday, led by a 4 percent rise in True Corp and 2.3 percent gain in Shin Corp, major shareholder of market leader Advanced Info Service.

Thailand is among the last Asian countries to launch 3G services, which will enable companies to generate more revenue from fast-growing data services and reduce regulatory costs under the new licensing regime.

The Office of the Ombudsman had submitted the case to the court to decide whether the Oct. 16 auction was conducted fairly under the constitution and frequency allocation laws. Critics say the telecom companies colluded on pricing at the auction.

“The plaintiff has neither authority nor right to submit the suit because the 3G auction is under authority of the NBTC, which is an independent organisation, not the government agency,” Suchat Sriwarakorn, head of judges read in the courtroom.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) will discuss on Friday about timeframe to issue 3G licences to operators, which could possibly be in late December, Takorn Tantasit, secretary-general of the NBTC told reporters.

The top three telecoms operators bid a total of 41.63 billion baht ($1.4 billion) on Oct. 16 for the new frequencies for fast, third-generation mobile services.

Shares in Thai telecoms firms rose sharply late last week on expectations the court’s ruling would favour them.

At 0820 GMT, market leader Advanced Info lost 1.4 percent after rising more than 5 percent on Friday, while second-ranked Total Access Communication Pcl fell 0.6 percent after rising 2 percent on Friday.

3G licensing is also a crucial step in reforming the highly-regulated sector, promising to change the way operators pay fees to the government. ($1 = 30.75 Baht) (Reporting by Manunphattr Dhanananphorn; Writing by Khettiya Jittapong; Editing by Alan Raybould and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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