AIS aims to achieve nationwide 3G coverage by the end of this year, and make multiple forays into mobile payment.
Laying out its plans at the AIS Visions 2013 kick-off event, CEO Wichien Mektrakarn thanked the regulator for its bravery in pushing through the licences after the October auction and ushering in a new era in telecommunications.
AIS’ 3G subsidiary Advance Wireless Network is already rolling out base stations and will launch commercially as early as April or May.
Wichien said that the new 3G network will cover 50% of Thailand’s population by the first half of the year and 80% and every province by the end of this year. The licence conditions put 50% and 80% coverage at two and four years, respectively
Around 5,000 base stations will be launched in the first phase that will cover 18 of the country’s 76 provinces, a figure that includes heavy use of small cells in Bangkok.
“We used to be number one. We are still number one in 2G. We aim to be number one in 3G,” he said, tacitly acknowledging the head-start rival TrueMove has had in its 3G roll-out.
The new 3G network itself continues AIS’ multi-vendor approach. The radio side features Huawei, ZTE and Nokia-Siemens Networks split among multiple zones with multiple vendors at the core and an Ericsson HLR.
AIS is investing $437 million (13 billion baht) in its network this year, and Wichien asked journalists to disregard earlier investment figures he had quoted before the 3G licences were awarded.