Author Topic: Will consumers be the winners once the 3G dust settles  (Read 631 times)

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Offline thaiga

Will consumers be the winners once the 3G dust settles
« on: October 12, 2012, 11:18:03 AM »
The telecom regulator must ensure that winning bidders provide wide-ranging service at a fair price

BANGKOK: -- A complete absence of suspense surrounds the auction of 2.1-gigahertz spectrum slots next Tuesday, despite eager anticipation of the 3G service it will bring.

Although the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) auction has yet to take place, the outcome has been easy to predict for a couple of weeks. The country's "big three" service providers are almost certain to run out winners amid a lack of competitive bidding.

The NBTC will call for bids on nine slots of the 2.1GHz spectrum, each containing 5MHz of bandwidth. Each bidder can clinch a maximum of three slots.

The allocation of the slots and the number of potential bidders make the outcome a foregone conclusion. Chances are that the three pre-qualified bidders - DTAC Network, Advanced Info Service's Advanced Wireless Network and TrueCorp's Real Future - will grab three slots each.

The starting bid is set at Bt4.5 billion per slot, and the winning bids are unlikely to be pushed up much higher given the lack of competition.

The allocation process prompted telecoms guru Anupap Tiralap to file a petition with the Central Administrative Court for a temporary injunction against the auction. As of press time, the court had not yet announced whether it would order a temporary halt to the bidding process.

Most consumers will be hoping there are no further delays on the road to 3G. Thailand is already lagging far behind economic rivals, who have been capitalising on the new technology for months or even years already.

The NBTC claims its method of allocating spectrum slots is the best way of ensuring fairness for all players. This is despite the fact that the scant competition will result in less revenue from the auction for the government.

The NBTC has said that the size of the winning bids is not a major concern. In this way, it is hoped that the winning companies will not be able to cite the bidding costs as a reason to raise their service fees.

In the interest of consumers, the 3G auction should go ahead as planned. Businesses and ordinary citizens have faced a long wait to upgrade the speed and efficiency of their Internet connection. A couple of legal cases surrounding the auction present hurdles, but these should soon be cleared, giving Thailand a free run at 3G Internet.

The NBTC's duties won't be over once the bidding is completed. It must then protect consumers' best interests.

First, the operators must charge a fair service fee that reflects the fact that their bids were not forced up by fierce competition. In other words, the operators should have no convincing reason for setting high fees.

In addition, the 3G service should extend to a majority of the population. The operators have no excuse for providing bad signals, given recent tests of the technology. They should also keep in mind that Article 47 of the Constitution states that the spectrum is to be allocated in the interest of consumers. As part of the tender's terms and conditions, winners of 10MHz of bandwidth or more must provide network coverage to 50 per cent of the population within two years, and to 80 per cent within four years.

Thais should not have to wait any longer to reap the benefits of 3G. The new technology has the power to deliver fresh opportunities, convenience and speed of communication for all of us. The challenges for the NBTC are to ensure fair play among the service providers so that it's the consumers who wind up the eventual winners after the auction.

The Nation
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