May 14, 2019 / 12:29 PM / 10 days ago

Thai regulator sets initial price for three 700-MHz licences at $555 mln each

BANGKOK, May 14 (Reuters) - Thailand’s telecoms regulator set an initial price on Tuesday for three 700-megahertz (MHz) licences at $555 million each ahead of next month’s auction, and plans to roll out 5G services in late 2020.

The fifth-generation technology, which can provide data speeds at least 20 times faster than 4G, is seen as essential for emerging technologies from self-driving cars and smart cities to augmented reality and artificial intelligence.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) said the initial price for all three 10-MHz blocks on the 700-MHz spectrum would be 52.75 billion baht ($1.67 billion).

“The price we determined is reasonable,” said secretary-general Takorn Tantasith, adding the NBTC would hold an online public hearing on the terms of the auction until May 30.

Official terms will be announced early next month, ahead of the June 19 auction, he said.

Thailand will release the spectrum for use late next year, and each licence will be valid for 15 years.

Taking part in the 700-MHz auction has been set by the regulator as a condition for Thailand’s main operators to receive an extension to the payment period for their 900-MHz licences.

That followed an executive order by junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha in April, which said such an extension was needed to help draw bids for future 700-Mhz and 2600-Mhz licences to support 5G technology.

All three main operators have accepted the offer of a payment extension, Takorn said, adding that meant they must participate in the upcoming auction.

True Corp and Advanced Info Service Pcl (AIS) , partially owned by SingTel, won their 900-MHz licences in 2016 for about $2 billion each. They would get to pay the remaining amount, originally due next year, over six installments until 2025.

Total Access Communication Pcl, owned by Norway’s Telenor, won one spectrum licence for $1.20 billion last year. Instead of 2022, it could pay in eight more installments to 2027.

The three companies have been non-committal on the requirement to bid for new spectrum, saying they would not want to participate if the minimum bid price was too high.

They have not yet made public responses to the regulator’s terms.

$1 = 31.5100 baht Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Mark Potter

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