Thai 3G license auction set for Sept.

Three top telecoms expected to win permits

BANGKOK -- Thailand's telecoms regulator said on Monday it had rejected an application from one bidder to join an auction for third-generation mobile phone licenses, leaving only the top three telecoms operators in the running.

With three bidders joining the auction, just two licenses will be up for grabs in the first round and a third license will be auctioned in a second round within 90 days, stoking speculation that major player True Corp Pcl won't get a license in the first round.

The telecoms regulator plans to hold the 3G auction on Sept. 20-28, a crucial step in reforming the $4.7 billion sector that could pave for foreign players to grab a bigger slice of the industry and change the way companies pay fees to the government.

Leading Asian telecoms firms such as China Mobile Ltd. and South Korea's SK Telekom Co. Ltd. have expressed interest.

"Four companies submitted applications today. After preliminary examination, three bidders have complete documents to join the auction," Natee Sukonrat, a member of the National Telecommunications Commission, told reporters.

The three are units of Advanced Info Service Pcl, second-ranked Total Access Communication Pcl and True Corp Pcl. The fourth, Win Win NGV Co. Ltd, an assembler of natural gas vehicles, failed to submit sufficient financial documents, the regulator said.

Shares fell in the three companies joining the bid, led by a 2.7% drop in True. TAC lost 1.5%, while AIS edged down 0.5% in a rising market.

Thailand is among the last Asia countries to hold an auction for three licenses on the new 2.1 GHz spectrum, which is expected to generate at least $1 billion for the state.

The NTC will announce names of qualified bidders on Sept. 14 and the auction will be held 12 times per day from Sept. 20 with a starting price of 12.8 billion baht ($408 million).
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