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Norwegian telecom group Telenor's operator subsidiary in Thailand, Total Access Communication PLC (dtac), announced that its CEO Lars-Åke Norling has decided to leave the company to pursue new opportunities. The news came after dtac faced a major setback when it was announced that a much anticipated spectrum auction was delayed again.

Effective immediately, Lars-Åke Norling will step down from Telenor Group Executive Management, including the role as Cluster Head for Developed Asia. dtac has initiated the process of appointing a new CEO. Lars-Åke Norling will remain in his current role until September 1, 2018, or until a successor has been appointed.

"I want to thank Lars-Åke for his many contributions to Telenor Group, both in his role as CEO of dtac and as part of the Group Executive Management team. Under his leadership, dtac has consolidated its leading position on 4G and innovation in Thailand, and I am certain the team is well equipped to continue on the current strong trajectory. I wish Lars-Åke all the best in his future role," said Sigve Brekke, CEO of Telenor Group.

dtac faced a major setback recently when Thailand’s much anticipated spectrum auction in the 850MHz and 1.8GHz bands was delayed again in March and cannot be held until a new National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) board takes over later in the year.

The delay is an alarming complication for dtac, the country’s third largest mobile operator, whose concessions with state-owned CAT Telecom to operate 2G services on the 850MHz and 1.6GHz bands expire in September this year. The acting NBTC board, whose six-year term expired in October last year, will no longer be able to make policy decisions at the end of March, according to the Bangkok Post.

By April, a new seven-member board could be selected, but the group wouldn’t be able to complete an auction by September, an NBTC board member said. Plans for an auction were approved last year by the NBTC board and passed a public hearing in December 2017, the newspaper said. But a revised plan called for the number of slots offered in the 1.8GHz band to be increased from three to nine to make the sale more competitive, and this didn’t get the approval of all members.

The NBTC announced plans in September 2017 to hold the auction in January 2018, some three months earlier than originally planned to ensure dtac could continue its services. But in November 2017 the auction was pushed back to May 2018, with the licenses planned to be awarded by June to give dtac customers a few months to transfer.

dtac has a total spectrum holding of 50MHz and needs to obtain new spectrum to replace the 35MHz it loses when the 2G connections expire. The 15MHz of 2.1GHz spectrum dtac currently owns probably won’t be enough to support the rapid increase in mobile traffic in the future, reports suggest.