Thailand’s 3G License Auction Faces Possible Collision Probe

Thailand’s Finance Ministry is calling for a probe into allegations of collusion between the three private mobile networks who won 3G licenses in last week’s long delayed auction.

The way the auction was structured and level at which the reserve price was set had been criticized as it reduced the opportunity for competition during the auction. However, equally, the lengthy delays in holding the auction and the local market conditions made it less appealing to new entrants to participate.

The Finance Ministry deputy permanent secretary, Supa Piyajitti has written to the telecoms regulator, the NBTC and the National Anti-Corruption Commission calling for a probe into the auction.

“The spectrum is a limited resource so if there is inappropriate allocation or collusion it may result in a severe loss for the state and NBTC members may be held responsible under the law,” Supa wrote in the letter, a copy of which was released by her office.

She argued that there should have been fewer licenses than bidders and that the reserve price should have been set at a higher level. The licenses were eventually auctioned off for just slightly higher than the reserve, with competition limited to preferences over which block of spectrum the bidders wanted.

The auction raised US$1.4 billion for the government.

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