[Reuters] Thailand's telecommunications regulator said on Monday the auction of long-awaited third-generation (3G) mobile service licences might be held in January 2010, a little later than envisaged.
The exact timing would depend on the selection of new board members at the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC), Secretary-General Suranan Wongvithayakamjorn told reporters in an industry seminar.
"The process should start from the third quarter of this year and the auction may happen in January," he said, adding the NTC would select new board members in August.
Last week, NTC Chairman Choochart Promphrasid told Reuters the auction would be as early as October and that the change in the regulator's board members would not derail its plan to liberalise the highly regulated sector. [ID:nBKK548216]
Operators said delaying for a few months should not affect their plans for the commercial launch of 3G services, expected in late 2010.
"It should take around six to seven months to install equipment," said Athueck Asvanund, vice chairman of True Corp TRUE.BK, major shareholder of Thailand's third largest mobile operator, True Move.
The 3G licences, which would enable operators to tap new revenue through music, video, picture and data services, have been delayed for several years by political obstacles.
Thai telecoms operators want to receive 3G licences on the new 2.1 GHz spectrum, which analysts said should help reduce regulatory costs for operators.
The top two mobile operators are Advanced Info Service ADVA.BK (AIS) and Total Access Communication DTAC.BK (TACC.SI).
The 3G licensing is a key step in reforming the sector because operators will pay licence fees instead of handing over a portion of their revenue to two state-owned firms for the right to operate networks they have built and paid for themselves.
Thai 3G auction may be delayed to January 2010