TOT Plc may have to postpone its planned auction for its nationwide third-generation (3G) wireless broadband expansion in the wake of allegations by some bidders of unfair treatment and poor transparency.
Chuti Krairiksh, the Information and Communications Technology minister, admitted he could not guarantee that the auction for the project worth almost 20 billion baht could take place on Friday as scheduled.
Ericsson of Sweden and ZTE Corporation of China last week accused the state telecom enterprise of being non-transparent, after TOT announced that the two contenders had been tentatively ruled out after preliminary screening.
Ericsson was supposedly disqualified for the absence of catalogues for antenna-related products in its submitted bid. ZTE was said to have provided unrealistic financial calculations.
ZTE will hold a press conference today to explain its case, and also plans to petition the TOT chairman, the ICT minister and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.
The company was prepared to file a suit against TOT with the Administrative Court if it felt the grounds for disqualification were unfair, said an executive of the ZTE consortium.
Noppanat Hutacharoen, a TOT deputy president, stressed that the board had not yet made a formal decision on the technical and commercial qualifications of the four bidding groups, and the information released last week was only a preliminary finding.
All contenders have the right to appeal against TOT by submitting the required bid documents again within three days, he said.
A formal announcement would be made next week, he said.
A member of the TOT board also said the four contenders had failed to provide follow-up plans for co-hosted cell site construction, a key requirement for the winner.
The winning bidder would be eligible to build a 3G platform at existing sites of other mobile operators to save costs and time.
In the initial investment stage, the TOT 3G infrastructure would be installed at the cell sites of private mobile operators.
Advanced Info Service, the concessionaire of TOT, has already transferred all of its base stations to the state agency under the build-transfer-operate contract.
“Without a clear co-hosted site plan proposal, a major problem could arise in the future,” said the director.