April 11, 2019 / 9:24 AM / in 10 days

Thai mobile operators get more time for billion-dollar spectrum payment

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand on Thursday extended mobile network operators’ payment period for spectrum licences in an attempt to boost participation in an upcoming 5G auction.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha invoked Article 44 of the constitution on Thursday. It is an executive order that allows the junta to push through policy, citing intense competition affecting operators’ ability to pay for 900-megahertz (Mhz) licence, and therefore, was necessary to amend the payment period.

The order would benefit telco operators such as Advanced Info Service Pcl (AIS), True Corp and Total Access Communication Pcl, which is owned by Norway’s Telenor.

The changes in the payment period could help draw future bids for the 700 Mhz and 2600 Mhz auctions and pave way for 5G technology, the statement said.

The 5G technology, which can provide data speeds at least 20 times faster than 4G, is seen as essential for emerging technologies from self-driving cars and smart cities to augmented reality and artificial intelligence.

The spectrum regulator, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC), previously said it plans to hold a 700-Mhz spectrum auction in December.

“Details of the payment extension will be available on April 17,” NBTC Secretary-General Takorn Tantasith told reporters.

Operators may notify the NBTC within 30 days, and have payments be divided into 10 equal installments over 10 years beginning 2020, the statement said.

In November, Total Access won one spectrum licence for 38 billion baht ($1.20 billion).

True Corp and AIS, 23 percent owned by SingTel, won their licences in 2016 for about $2 billion each and have since made partial payments.

($1 = 31.7800 baht)

Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng and Panarat Thepgumpanat, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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