Thailand’s 3G Sectrum Auction Postponed by Court Ruling

As Bangkok Beach Telecom reported Monday, the attempts to delay the Thai 3G auctions has been successful. The Supreme Administrative Court Friday ruled that the complaint filed by Communications Authority of Thailand (CAT) has merit and the auction must be delayed until the Court can render a final decision. The Court agreed to announce that decision Monday morning, the same day of the planned auctions, 20 September. The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), the body who had planned to hold the auction Monday, said that even a favorable ruling Monday, a ruling which would allow the auction to proceed as planned, would still trigger a delay.

At issue is whether the current NTC has the right to auction the spectrum at all, or whether the legislature derogated that right to the National Broadcast and Telecoms Board, a body that has neither been established by legislation nor staffed with appointments. Those steps are likely to require at least 6 months whilst players continue to jokey for influence and advantage.

Thai and foreign investors acknowledged this added uncertainty by trashing shares of Thai mobile operators on the Bangkok Stock Exchange. Advanced Info Service (AIS) fell 9.8% to THB 89.50. DTAC was was off more than 18% to THB 39. True Move fell 25% to THB 5.30.

Regardless of the Court’s decision Monday, a 6-month delay seems unlikely. There is simply too much money at stake. The vested interests will push to achieve a traditional Thai-style compromise, one which allows the auction to proceed. Expect CAT to reclaim the right to offer 3G service, or to win some other desired concession from the government. This was probably the true intent of CAT when they filed the injunction, just negotiation by other means.

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