BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's telecoms regulator on Wednesday has extended auction time for two licenses of fourth generation (4G) mobile spectrum after almost 10 hours of bidding that pushed up a combined prices to more than 49 billion baht ($1.37 billion).
Thailand's top mobile operators have bid aggressively to win licenses for bandwidth on the 1800 MHz frequency with base prices of 15.91 billion baht per license.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) initially planned to close the auction at 9 PM local time, but decided to give a half-hour hour break before resuming bidding until they have winners, NBTC Vice Chairman Settapong Malisuwan told a news conference.
Thailand's largest mobile operator Advanced Info Service Pcl (AIS) <ADVANC.BK> and third-ranked True Corp <TRUE.BK> are expected by the market to be the winners.
AIS, 23 percent owned by Singapore Telecommunications Ltd <STEL.SI>, is the only major Thai operator that does not have 4G service. Analysts expect the license will help AIS increase its revenue from mobile data.
True Corp, 18 percent owned by China Mobile <0941.HK> and controlled by billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont's Charoen Pokphand Group, also needs a license to maintain its leading position in 4G services, analysts said.
Other bidders included second-ranked Total Access Communication <DTAC.BK>, controlled by Norway's Telenor <TEL.OL> and broadband operator Jasmine International <JAS.BK>.
The 4G auction is seen as an important step in supporting the digital economy policy of the military government, which expects it to raise more than $2 billion.
The regulator also plans to hold another auction for two 4G licenses of 900 MHz frequency on Dec. 15.
(Reporting by Khettiya Jittapong and Manunphattr Dhanananphorn, editing by Louise Heavens)