Thailand’s dominant operator AIS says 3G crunch-time is looming, as EDGE won’t be enough to support its customers’ data needs for much longer.
“Presently EDGE still covers our customers’ data consumption, but not for long,” an AIS source told telecomasia.net.
“Our business vision is to evolve to a better mobile experience for users, and obviously 3G is the next step.”
SingTel-backed AIS has launched trial HSPA services at 900MHz in Chiang Mai, Chonburi and Hua-Hin and is “satisfied with the take-up [of the HSPA900] so far.”
But the company’s main high-speed mobile broadband strategy for metro areas is to roll out HSPA at 2100MHz.
“Our 900MHz bandwidth is already full utilized, so we are not looking to expanding HSPA900 commercially,” the AIS said.
“The main purpose at the time of launch (2008) was to emphasize AIS’s image as the innovative and foremost mobile operator in Thailand.”
Regulator the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) is hoping to hold 3G auctions in September or November.
But it is unclear at this stage whether the NTC or unified regulator the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) will handle 3G licensing.
On Monday, the Senate passed the frequency allocation bill, paving the way for the NBTC to be established, reported the Bangkok Post.
A 35-member committee, chaired by Satit Wongnongtaey, from the Prime Minister’s Office, will review the bill over the next month, the Nationadded.
“Whether it will be the NTC or another regulator holding the auction of the 2100Mhz spectrum, we do hope they will do that soon,” said the AIS source.
“TOT and CAT will not join in the future auction of the 2100Mhz bandwidth since they are government enterprises and each already have received their portions [of 3G spectrum.
“We are not sure yet who the fourth [3G] operator may be, nor which block will be allocated to whom, but right now we understand that there will be four 2100Mhz licenses for HSPA.”
Long-time speculation has it that the government will auction three 10Mhz spectrum blocks at 2100Mhz, and one 15Mhz lot, with the three smaller blocks likely to go to AIS, DTAC and True Move, with the 15Mhz being taken up by a newcomer.
China Mobile and NTT DoCoMo have previously reportedly expressed interest in the greenfield 3G block.