By Patpicha Tanakasempipat
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's telecoms regulator raised 100.52 billion baht ($3.2 billion) in 5G spectrum auctions on Sunday, with operators snapping up 48 licenses ahead of an expected commercial rollout later this year.
Thailand's top mobile operator, Advanced Info Service Pcl
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) said the fifth-generation technology, with data speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G networks, will help drive the country's digital economy.
The country's second and third-largest telecoms operators, True Corporation Pcl
State-run firms CAT Telecom and TOT - which are to be merged to become National Telecom company (NT) - participated in spectrum auctions for the first time, winning six licenses combined.
On the low band 700-megahertz (Mhz) spectrum, CAT won two licenses for 2x5-MHz blocks, while SingTel-owned
Licenses for 19 10-MHz blocks on the mid-band 2600-MHz spectrum were split between AIS and True, which won 10 and 9 licenses respectively, for a total of 37.43 billion baht, while CAT lost out. China Mobile <0941.HK> holds a stake in True, owned by Thai billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont.
Companies winning the 700-MHz and 2600-MHz bands are required to pay the government over a 10-year period, in 10 and seven installments respectively, according to the auction terms.
DTAC, owned by Norway's Telenor Group
The 26-GHz licenses were worth a total of 11.63 billion baht, and the winning firms are required to pay the full amount within one year.
"Thailand's 5G technology is expected to help drive the economy by at least 177 billion baht this year, accounting for 1.02% of the country's GDP," said Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the NBTC, adding that he expected the value to nearly double in 2021.
The results will be officially confirmed on Wednesday, Takorn said.
($1 = 31.2000 baht)
(Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Additional reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Susan Fenton)