AIS wins last Thailand 4G licence in uncontested auction

Friday, May 27, 2016

Thailand's Advanced Info Service PCL (AIS) on Friday won a licence to operate a fourth-generation (4G) mobile phone network, in the last of a series of spectrum auctions that could lead to over $12 billion in government revenue and investment.

AIS, the country's biggest mobile network provider, was the only bidder, offering 75.65 billion baht ($2.12 billion). The auction was a re-run after the previous winner in December, Jasmine International PCL, missed a payment deadline.

The amount took spectrum auction revenue up to $6.5 billion which the government plans to use to expand telecommunications infrastructure. That spending would be complemented by telecom firms' investing over $5.6 billion in coming years on their 4G networks, regulator secretary general Takorn Tantasith said.

Improving access to and performance of mobile and broadband data services is part of a wider government plan to promote e-commerce and online banking.

AIS, 23 percent owned by Singapore Telecommunications Ltd , already has one 4G licence but said it needed additional capacity to improve high-speed data services.

But the cost of the new licence prompted analysts to lower their estimates of AIS profit by as much as 12 percent, while other concerns related to the impact on dividend payments.

In reflection, AIS shares fell 9 percent over the past three months. They were up 0.63 percent at the 0530 GMT midday close on Friday.

Analysts said the new licence would help AIS migrate 2G subscribers to 3G or 4G networks, reducing the chance of defection. After losing the December auction, AIS had been tempting its 12 million 2G users to upgrade with free handsets.

AIS was alone at Friday's auction as nearest rivals Total Access Communication PCL and True Corp PCL, said they had enough spectra for the next three years.

The next auctions will take place in 2018, and the regulator expects the commercial launch of 5G in Thailand in 2020.


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