Thailand’s number one telco AIS is putting aside 8 billion baht ($261 million) for network upgrades, and will have 900-MHz 3G in 17 of Thailand’s 76 provinces by the end of the year.
Speaking at AIS Visions 2012, AIS CEO Vichien Mektrakarn said that the company ended 2011 with 33.5 million subscribers (up from 32 million in 2010), with voice revenue still growing by 8% (71 billion baht vs 65 billion). Current mobile penetration is around 110% in a country of 69 million.
For data, the network has 9 million users (up from 7.5 million) of which 1.2 million are on AIS’ 900-MHz 3G network.
Mektrakarn was candid when he spoke of the 2.1-GHz 3G auction expected for late this year.
“When I speak to investors, I have to say I’m confident. But this is amazing for Thailand. I believe it will happen, but I also believe something will happen to try to knock us off our feet [and derail the auction]. It is our job to avoid that kick aimed at knocking us off our feet,” he said, not elaborating any further.
For 2012, AIS expects service revenue growth of 5-6% and 10 to 15% device sales growth. Voice will remain the primary revenue source at 75%.
AIS has achieved relative success with its e-Book store, boasting 100,000 active users and 300,000 downloads a month. This is impressive for a country not known for its love of reading.
In March, AIS will offer newspapers through its store and add video streaming of concerts to its current music library offering.
Chief Operating Officer Mark Chong Chin Kok said that 2012 will see 8 billion baht capex put into the network. The number of 900-MHz 3G base stations will be doubled to 3,500, and coverage will be concentrated in major cities among 17 out of Thailand’s 76 provinces. Capacity will be uplifted to 5 million from the current 2 million.
The 8 billion does not include any provisions for any 2.1-GHz 3G auction, which is under a separate business plan.
Chong also spoke of a push with ZTE for low-end Android devices, both phones and tablets, to open up a new market segment.