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A Huawei Technologies smartphone is displayed at the Thailand Mobile Expo 2019. Thailand’s telecommunications regulator raised US$3.2 billion from its 5G spectrum auction on Sunday. Photo: Xinhua

Thailand raises US$3.2 billion from 5G licence auction ahead of commercial roll-out later this year

  • Companies winning the 700-MHz and 2600-MHz bands are required to pay the government over a 10-year period

Thailand’s telecommunications regulator raised 100.52 billion baht (US$3.2 billion) in 5G spectrum auctions on Sunday, with operators snapping up 48 licences ahead of an expected commercial roll-out later this year.

Thailand’s top mobile network operator, Advanced Info Service, emerged as the biggest winner with 23 licences across all three spectrum bands in the auctions that lasted over five hours.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) said the next-generation wireless technology, with data speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G networks, will help drive the country’s digital economy.

The country’s second and third-largest telecoms operators, True Corporation and Total Access Communication, bagged 17 and two licences respectively.

State-run firms CAT Telecom and TOT – which are to be merged to become National Telecom company (NT) – took part in spectrum auctions for the first time, winning six licences combined.

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On the low band 700-megahertz (MHz) spectrum, CAT won two licences for 2x5-MHz blocks, while SingTel-owned AIS took home one licence, beating out True, for a total of 51.46 billion baht, after 20 rounds of bidding that last over three hours.

Licenses for 19 10-MHz blocks on the mid-band 2600-MHz spectrum were split between AIS and True, which won 10 and 9 licences respectively, for a total of 37.43 billion baht, while CAT lost out. China Mobile holds a stake in True, owned by Thai billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont.

Companies winning the 700-MHz and 2600-MHz bands are required to pay the government over a 10-year period, in 10 and seven instalments respectively, according to the auction terms.

DTAC, owned by Norway’s Telenor Group, only took part in the high band 26-GHz auction and won two out of 26 licences for 100-MHz blocks, with AIS winning the majority of 12. True won eight and TOT won four of the remaining licences.

The 26-GHz licences were worth a total of 11.63 billion baht, and the winning firms are required to pay the full amount within one year.

“Thailand’s 5G technology is expected to help drive the economy by at least 177 billion baht this year, accounting for 1.02 per cent of the country’s GDP,” said Takorn Tantasith, secretary general of the NBTC, adding that he expected the value to nearly double in 2021.

The results will be officially confirmed on Wednesday, Takorn said.

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