Yesterday's countdown event welcoming a new era in Thai telecom was held by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) at Impact Muang Thong Thani.
The countdown is aimed at stimulating public awareness of the benefits of 3G wireless service and declaring NBTC's readiness for the auction.
The NBTC has set Oct 16 as the auction date for 3G spectrum.
The auction will offer nine 5-megahertz slots out of 45 MHz of bandwidth on the 2.1-gigahertz spectrum.
The reserve price for a 5-MHz block of the spectrum has been set at 4.5 billion baht, and the auction will be an ascending-bid type, with each participant allowed to buy up to 15 MHz.
If successful, the leading three mobile operators _ Advanced Info Service (AIS), Total Access Communication (DTAC) and True Move _ say they will be ready to launch commercial 3G service on the international standard 2.1-GHz spectrum in Bangkok and major cities by next year's first quarter.
Somprasong Boonyachai, the executive chairman of AIS parent InTouch, said Thailand can no longer afford to delay the 3G auction with the Asean Economic Community set to arrive in 2015.
"If the 3G auction does not take place this time, then it could be a disaster for our nation," he said.
Mr Somprasong said AIS is ready to bid for a 3G licence.
He said 3G technology will drive the local telecom industry into a new wireless era and raise the country's competitiveness.
While he remained tight-lipped about the amount of investment in AIS's 3G network plan, the company earlier revealed it intends to spend 40 billion baht in the coming years to roll out its 3G network nationwide.
Darmp Sukontasap, DTAC's chief corporate affairs officer, said his company should be ready to launch its commercial 3G service in the first quarter of 2013.
Vichaow Rakphongphairoj, True's managing director and chief operating officer, also committed to a rollout of 3G service at that time.
He acknowledged the early launch of 3G service is expected to give operators an edge over their competitors amid falling voice-based tariffs and the introduction of mobile number portability.
Col Settapong Malisuwan, the NBTC's vice-chairman and head of the 3G auction committee, gave assurances that the online auction will be fully transparent, with no chance of collusion among the bidders.
As of last Friday, 15 companies from nine business groups had picked up 3G application forms.
They include three each from AIS and True Corporation and two each from units of DTAC and Jasmine Telecom.
The rest are BB Connect of the Benchachinda Group, the former owner of DTAC; Cable Thai Holding, a cable TV operator owned by Wichai Thongtang, a former lawyer of Thaksin Shinawatra; ACT Mobile, a subsidiary of TOT Plc; Jaya Soft Vision, a subsidiary of the telecom solutions firm JRW Utility; and Victory Motor of Yuthana Phothasuthon.
The 3G application forms will be available for interested companies to pick up until next Thursday and must be submitted by next Friday.
The NBTC will announce the qualified bidders on Oct 10.
Disqualified firms can appeal before the auction takes place.
The NBTC will announce the bid winners on Oct 22.