Advanced Info Service (AIS), Thailand's largest mobile operator, will put an extra 20 billion baht into its third-generation network expansion in a drive to speed up adoption of 3G service.
Chief executive Wichian Mektrakarn said the executive board committee approved the additional budget last month.
At first, AIS planned to spend 70 billion baht to install the 3G network on the 2100-megahertz spectrum under a three-year plan until next year.
"To retain our leading position in the market, we need to stay one step ahead of our competitors," said Mr Wichian.
AIS offers 2G mobile service on the 900-MHz spectrum with 17.5 MHz of bandwidth under a TOT Plc concession due to expire in 2015. Five MHz of bandwidth was set aside to provide 3G service.
"We plan to move all 3G customers on the 900-MHz band to 3G service on the 2100-MHz spectrum this year," said Mr Wichian, acknowledging that 3G on the 900-MHz network can no longer support voice and data services for the large customer base.
AIS has 37 million subscribers including 9 million 3G users. Sixty percent of all 3G customers signed up for postpaid service, with the rest prepaid.
"We believe the proportion of 3G prepaid users will surpass postpaid when the market is mature," said Mr Wichian.
In his view, accelerating adoption of 3G service on the 2100-MHz spectrum poses a serious challenge despite the falling prices of smartphones and other mobile devices.
He said AIS sees mobile data usage rising markedly next year, fuelled by new bandwidth-intensive applications for video streaming and digital broadcasting.
AIS expects to increase the number of its 3G base stations to 20,000 next year.
Mr Wichian said AIS has no plans to launch a telecommunications infrastructure fund like smaller rivals True Corporation and Jasmine International intend to do, as AIS has strong financial health and enough capital for future expansion.
The company's stance is that such funds provide no flexibility of management in the hypercompetitive telecommunications industry.
AIS is focused on taking part in the auction of 25 MHz of the 1800-MHz spectrum, scheduled to take place next September.
Mr Wichian said AIS is in talks with concession owner TOT for a cooperative deal on the state telecom enterprise's 3G network expansion.
TOT is providing 3G service on its own 2100-MHz spectrum with just 5,200 base stations.
Shares of ADVANC closed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand at 273 baht Tuesday, up three baht, in trade worth 1.64 billion baht.
About the author
- Writer: Komsan Tortermvasana
Position: Senior Business Reporter