Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Thailand - DTAC challenges AIS

DTAC Chief Challenges AIS for Cell Phone Market Leader Status

The new CEO of the second-ranked mobile operator DTAC has set an ambitious goal to overtake the long-time champion Advanced Info Service (AIS) as the market leader, pinning his hopes on the legacy 850-MHz bandwidth for third-generation (3G) services and the implementation of number portability.

Tore Johnsen, who will take the helm of DTAC from Sept 1, succeeding Sigve Brekke, said DTAC had potential to achieve the goal thanks to its advantages in terms of 3G and mobile number portability, which allows consumers to change their service providers while keeping their telephone numbers.

DTAC has upgraded its analogue 850-MHz bandwidth to high-speed download packet access (HSDPA), the technology that gives it a more competitive network capacity and lower investment costs.

Mr Johnsen, 59, acknowledged that it would be tough to beat AIS, but he believes that DTAC could do just that based on its strengths in fundamentals, structure, management team and staff, financial health and growth momentum.

"With my experience and background in the complicated markets in Europe, Malaysia and Pakistan, I'm confident that I could help further develop DTAC and the Thai telecom market," he said.

Citing Pakistan as an example, Mr Johnsen said he could transform the mobile operation there from practically nothing to the second largest with 18 million subscribers, or a 22 percent market share, within four years.

Pakistan has six international mobile operators in a market of 80 million users out of the population of 160 million.

Mr Johnsen said his first task was to spend 1-2 months to get to know DTAC's corporate culture and management team before taking any further step.

He outlined business plans to further expand network capacity, localise the brand, develop innovative products and services, and prepare for 3G commercial launch some time next year by focusing on wireless broadband internet over mobile phones and laptop computers.

He also identified other goals to increase revenue and profitability to fulfil the mission to be number one.

Mr Johnsen said there would not be any change in business direction and management team under his leadership.

Mr Brekke, who will become the CEO of Telenor Asia on Sept 1, expressed confidence in Mr Johnsen.

"Given Mr Johnsen's capabilities and strength in technical background -- 3G in particular and regulatory terms and marketing approaches as well -- he is likely to bring DTAC to achieve the goal."

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