Over the recent years, the telecom industry in Thailand has grown and evolved at an incredible pace. Where, wireless or mobile segment has been the key contributor along with fixed line penetrating the telecom segment. There are currently six mobile service operators. The three largest are Advanced Info Services (AIS), Total Access Communication (DTAC) and True. AIS is the largest player in the market, the second largest market share belongs to DTAC and True. Driven by strong mobile and broadband penetration in emerging markets, telecom industry is expected to see double digit growth over the next five years.
The announcement of Advanced Info Service (AIS) hitting the five million 4G LTE users mark little more than one month after the full commercial launch on 26 January 2016, following a preliminary limited launch in December 2015 has gained market attention. Proved to have claimed the country’s first commercial LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) network using a newly-won 1800MHz technology-neutral license and a portion of its existing 2100MHz spectrum previously reserved for its 3G services. In addition, it is expected to invest a combined 40.0 billion baht (USD 1.11 billion) in 2016 to expand 3G and 4G LTE mobile network to retain its market share.
The auction of fourth-generation (4G) mobile spectrum in November 2015 had led to rise in the base prices by 14.0% to 15.9 billion baht (USD 446.0 million). This further raised shares of Thailand’s two top mobile operators, Advanced Info Service (AIS) and Total Access Communication. In addition, the auction in December 2015 lead to the increasing competition in Thai telecom sector with the new entrant ‘Jas Mobile’ after it won an auction in December 2015 for 900MHz spectrum with a THB 75.7bn bid. The company is likely to pursue aggressive marketing strategy to gain market share and build up its subscriber base with the launch of 4G services. However, on 22 March 2016, Thai cellular start-up Jas Mobile has forfeited its right to the technology-neutral (4G) 900MHz mobile license it won at auction in December, following its failure to meet the license payment deadline by 21 March 2016.
Another recent development in the telecom sector in Thailand that has caught much attention in March 2016 was, Ericsson signing of a three-year frame contract with Thailand’s True Corp (operating mobile services under the ‘True Move H’ band) ‘to enhance further rollout’ of LTE-Advanced Carrier Aggregation (LTE-A CA) and 2G/3G networks on 900MHz/1800MHz/2100MHz spectrum in north, central-west and southern Thailand. As part of the contract, Ericsson will deploy its multi-standard radio equipment using the new Ericsson Radio System and RBS 6000 base station family for macro and small cells.
DTAC has announced in February 2016 to lift its investment budget to BT70 billion (USD 2billion) up to 2018. The investment will go on expanding its 4G network and to upgrade its national backbone network to cope with the rising data traffic caused by the 4G services. However, in March 2016 Thailand’s telecom regulator has blocked plans by DTAC to reframe some of its unused 18000 MHz spectrum for LTE services. Since, DTAC currently leases 50 MHz spectrum from CAT Telecom under an agreement which expires in 2018. It returned 5 MHz of spectrum last year, but is still left with 20 MHz of unused spectrum. The company wants to reuse it for LTE services, but the regulator want to see contract between 2 companies before approval.
Due to Thailand’s strategic location and upper hand in technology, it has been selected by Huawei to host its first technology and innovation centre in Southeast Asia in 2016. Where, Bangkok will also serve as the global launch pad for its latest branding campaign. However, there still exist Thailand’s villages that are currently unserved, and hence Thai state-owned TOT has been handed sole responsibility for a project to build a national broadband network connecting 30,000 villages, with the aim of extending high speed internet access to these villages in April 2016.
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