NBTC puts brakes on spectrum auctions as it awaits legal view

BANGKOK (The Nation/ANN) - The board of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunica-tions Commission (NBTC) yesterday resolved to put the brakes on the NBTC's move to auction 1800MHz and 900MHz licences, pending the Council of State’s reply to it on whether it has authority to call for bids as an acting regulator.

NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said yesterday that the board also resolved that if the Council of State does not reply with its opinion on the matter within the next few months, the board would press ahead with holding the auctions.
However, Takorn added that, while it awaits the Council of State’s reply, the NBTC might rush to move forward with the auctions if the government urged it to do so.

The regulator consulted the Council of State a few months ago on whether it has the authority to auction the two spectra, given that it is now operating in an acting capacity.The Council of State is expected to call in the NBTC tomorrow to inquire into its auction plan.
Takorn said he did not think that the board's resolution yesterday would delay the auction process as all the related processes, including the public hearing process on both spectra, had been completed.

The watchdog had been expected to open the bidding for the two spectra in May. The six-year term of the existing commissioners ended on October 7 last year, but the new NBTC law allows them to continue in the same capacity until they are replaced.The process of selecting new commissioners begun last month and is expected to be finished in April.

Originally, the NBTC divided the 45MHz bandwidth of the 1800MHz spectrum into three licences each with 15MHz bandwidth. However, some participants in the public hearing on the spectrum proposed that the band be divided into nine licences, each with 5MHZ bandwidth, to enable the bidders to take the amount of bandwidth that fit with their actual needs.

The NBTC had initially planned to auction one licence of 900MHz containing 5MHz bandwidth. However, some participants in the public hearing for this spectrum proposed that the NBTC consider suspending the auction of this licence on concerns over a possible jam in signals between this 900MHz band and the 900MHz band that is planned to be used for proposed high-speed train services.

The NBTC can automatically take back the 900MHz band assigned for the high-speed train service if the project fails to get off the ground after 2020.The board yesterday also resolved that the NBTC would develop the second phase of the public broadband Internet service, covering 15,732 rural villages nationwide, on a budget of Bt3.283 billion. The project is expected to get off the ground at the end of this year.

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