Telecom Regulation: Spectrum Cap

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) of Thailand has trimmed down the maximum amount of frequency a carrier can purchase in the upcoming 3G auction from 20 MHz to 15 MHz.

With 45 MHz to go around, the tightened limit implies that the big three – namely Advanced Info Service (AIS), Total Access Communication (DTAC), and True – can now secure an equal share of the pie quite easily. The NBTC hopes that reduced competition will translate into lower spectrum acquisition costs for carriers and hence more affordable 3G services for consumers.

However, the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) describes the wireless industry as "a profit-maximizing monopoly dominated by three operators" and contends that the 3G service tariff will therefore probably be steep anyway. Meanwhile, the government will not earn as much as it could from the auction.

The NBTC counters that competition for the scarce resource will still be healthy, because the 45 MHz is split into nine slots that are not homogenous. Operators will therefore be fighting for optimal slots with the least interference. In addition, the Chief Executive Officer of AIS has indicated that slots adjacent to those currently occupied by the Telecom of Thailand (TOT) are more desirable due to the possibility of future strategic business partnerships.

So who is right? Our recently published Insight​ takes a look at the impact of this policy revision.