Academics and consumer protection foundations have thrown their full support behind the national telecoms regulator using auctions to licence fourth-generation (4G) spectrum, enabling the greatest consumer benefit and the highest possible revenue for the state.
“An auction is considered the best option for spectrum allocation, rather than measures such as beauty contests, because the bidders cannot credibly commit or guarantee their proposals to the regulator,” said Pornthep Benyaapikul, a lecturer in economics at Thammasat University.
The military’s planned one-year delay of the 4G spectrum auction could cost the country a loss of 1.2 billion baht, based on the period of the 4G licence, he said yesterday at a seminar held by Thammasat’s economics faculty and the Thailand Development and Research Institute (TDRI).
Mr Pornthep insisted an auction is the best option to efficiently promote transparency and ensure optimum use of natural frequency resources if it is designed properly.
“Bidders at beauty contests might not be able to deliver on their proposals, including tariff prices, quality of service guarantees and technologies over the next 15-20 years,” he added.
Duenden Nikomborirak, research director of TDRI, said beauty contests will always lead to suspicions of favouritism.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) is on the verge of amending several impractical sections of the Frequency Allocation Act (FAA) before a 4G spectrum auction takes place. The regulator was ordered by the junta last week to make changes to the FAA in order to eliminate legal loopholes.
The NBTC said Section 45 of the FAA will receive the most scrutiny because it is a major barrier to the country’s telecom and broadcasting development, as unlicensed regimes have been gaining momentum internationally.
Section 45 stipulated that spectrum allocation must be done by auction.
Teera Kanokkarnjanarat, a senior ICT industry analyst at Frost and Sullivan, said the country could face a potential loss of productivity and economic growth if the 4G auction is delayed.
First published: Bangkok Post, July 31, 2014