But the auction itself is expected to face a major hurdle today when a request to suspend it is filed with the Administrative Court.
Former president of the Thailand Telecommunication Management Academy, Anuparp Thiralarp, has vowed to petition the court today to halt the auction, saying that current regulations were not in the public interest.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) yesterday announced the three qualified applicants who will bid in the 3G auction: Advanced Wireless Network (AWN), a subsidiary of the country's largest mobile operator, Advanced Info Service (AIS); DTAC Network, a subsidiary of DTAC; and Real Future, a subsidiary of True Corporation.
The NBTC will auction off nine 5-MHz blocks, totalling 45 MHz of bandwidth, on the 2.1-GHz spectrum. The auction will be an ascending-bid type, with each participant allowed to purchase up to 15 MHz, or three blocks. The winners are due to be announced on Oct 22.
However, criticisms linger about the terms of the upcoming auction.
Since the total bandwidth of 45 MHz will be technically divided into three groups _ each comprising 15 slots of 5 MHz _ the three qualified bidders are almost assured of getting a block each.
Although the highest bidder will be offered first selection rights on the best bandwidth slots, critics say final prices might be too low as the bidders will only have to fight for the first selection rights, and not for the allocation itself.
The benchmark reserve price set by the NBTC has also been critised as being too low.
NBTC's telecom committee chairman Col Settapong Malisuwan and four other commissioners, however, said the reserve price of 4.5 billion baht for a 5-MHz block of the spectrum is appropriate.
Col Settapong said the NBTC has focused on long-term market competition among players to offer better-quality and reasonable fees for 3G services, rather than on a higher reserve price.
He said if the reserve price was set too high, operators would pass on the costs to customers.