Choochart Promphrasid, chairman of the National Telecommunications Commission, said yesterday that the NTC would finalise details of the auction soon.
NTC member Prasit Prapinmongkolkarn added that the NTC had considered auctioning wireless broadband 3G and WiMax spectra at the same time in September to make available many spectrum choices for bidders.
The spectrum for 3G is in the 2.1GHz band and those for WiMax are in the 2.1, 2.5 and 3.5GHz bands. The NTC has only 30MHz of bandwidth in the 2.1GHz spectrum to be licensed to the bidders.
Some private and state telecom agencies recently balked at the NTC's idea to auction the 3G spectrum, citing concerns that they would lose the bidding to cash-rich foreign telecom operators.
The 3G technology enables cellular operators to transmit bandwidth-hungry content to 3G phone users at lightning speed.While they are waiting for the 3G and WiMax licences, cellular operators are racing toward launching 3G services on their existing spectra and on High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) mobile broadband systems.
AIS kicked off the first commercial 3G HSPA service in Thailand on its 900MHz spectrum in Chiang Mai yesterday under the 3GSM Advance brand, but the number of compatible mobile phones is still limited to a few models. Among the highlighted services are an Internet connection and a video-call service between 3G phone users.
AIS utilises bandwidth of only 5MHz of its spectrum to offer the 3G service. It also invited the press to test video calls on moving tuk-tuks, but the 3G signal only covers some main areas in the province.
Sanchai Tiewprasertkul, AIS chief marketing officer, said the service had already signed up 60 subscribers. It targets about 80,000 subscribers nationwide this year.
AIS will roll out 300 of its 3G base stations in seven provinces this year - Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Nakhon Ratchasima, Phuket, Khon Kaen, Chon Buri and Songkhla - with a budget of Bt600 million.Industrialists view that the launch of 3G by AIS is mainly to create an image for the firm as the first 3G provider in Thailand. Launching the 3G service under the TOT's concession means AIS still has to share the high total annual concession revenue, including 3G revenue, of about 25 per cent with TOT.
NTC secretary-general Suranan Wongwithayakamjorn said AIS could offer the existing 3G service until the end of its concession term in 2015, while Choochart denied reports that the NTC had put the brakes on the AIS plan to launch 3G.
DTAC is waiting for permission from its concession owner CAT Telecom to upgrade its network to offer the 3G service on its 850MHz spectrum, while True Move is waiting for CAT to seek 800MHz spectrum bands for it to offer the 3G service.