3G auctions finally on the horizon for Thailand?

Thailand could see 3G auctions by the end of 2011, according to statements from Natee Sokonrat, the commissioner of the country’s new regulator. The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) is still in its inception, but is planned as a replacement for the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC).

Sokonrat has been quoted as saying that the NBTC is currently outlining a licensing plan for 3G spectrum which is expected to be finalised by May. Created as an independent body to oversee the country’s telecoms and broadcasting sectors, the NBTC will almost certainly assume the responsibility for Thailand’s 3G auction process – it was ruled last year that the NTC was not authorised to arbitrate the auctions.

The independent body has not yet technically formed, but its establishment was backed by a court ruling in December last year. 3G rollouts have already taken place in many other Southeast Asian countries, while Thailand’s 3G woes have become something of a national embarrassment within the global telecommunications industry.

With the 3G auctions repeatedly stymied, Thailand’s state-owned operator TOT was charged with the construction of a wholesale 3G network, with the ultimate goal of renting this spectrum to other operators.

This plan however seems to have undergone yet another setback – TOT has reportedly scrapped a contract that would have seen a group of vendors begin the infrastructure build-out. This u-turn was prompted by the opening of a transparency investigation by Thailand’s Office of the Auditor General, following objections raised by bidders who failed to obtain spectrum in the new project’s auctions.

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