Thailand‘s military government will bring forward the re-auction of a fourth-generation (4G) mobile licence by about a month, to the middle of May, from a previous date of June 24, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said on Friday.
Licence auctions for 4G, which permits speedier internet access and downloads, have netted the Thai government billions of dollars.
But the winner of one auction in December, Jasmine International, forfeited its licence after failing to make the first payment for it last month, triggering a re-auction.
Aside from Jasmine, all existing operators, including True Corp, will be eligible to participate in the auction, Wissanu told reporters after meeting Thailand‘s telecommunications regulator.
The starting price for the auction would be 75.65 billion baht ($2.15 billion), the level of Jasmine’s winning bid, Wissanu said.
True Group, Thailand‘s third-largest mobile operator, won two 4G licences in auctions late last year. The regulator had previously said it would not allow True to join the re-auction because it already had sufficient capacity.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said the junta was ready to step in and resolve the 4G mobile licence dispute after market leader Advanced Info Service (AIS) asked the regulator to award it the 900-MHz licence without hosting another auction.
AIS, the country’s largest mobile operator, has been under pressure to increase and upgrade its network capacity after failing to win the 4G licence in December.
The company is seeking a court injunction to extend the deadline for the shutdown of its legacy 2G services. The court has already permitted one extension, until April 14, from March 15.
The government will explore options to help AIS’s 2G customers to continue services, Wissanu said, without giving details.
At a separate news conference, Takorn Tantasith, secretary general of the industry regulator, said the auction was likely to be held on May 22, with the regulator making a final decision on the date on Monday.