[bangkokpost] Advanced Info Service (AIS) plans to start providing 3G wireless broadband services in Bangkok on Feb 1 along with TOT Plc's 3G services through a data roaming agreement.
The country's largest mobile-phone operator says it is ready to work with its concession provider TOT in a joint venture or co-investment in the state enterprise's 3G project if 3G licensing remains stalled.
CEO Wichian Mektrakarn said co-operation was necessary for AIS to keep its subscribers and deal with the uncertainty over 3G licences.
It would also allow it to cash in on increasing mobile data demand as 3G will be a key strategic marketing tool for operators to attract new customers this year, he said.
Mobile internet demand soared by 400% last year with 12 million users out of 69 million mobile users. Mobile internet users are expected to reach 18 million this year.
AIS will provide trial 3G services in the first month targeting heavy data users. It plans to offer 3G commercial services for postpaid customers in the first phase. Customers are required to purchase a SIM card for a new phone number allowing use of three network services: TOT 3G in Bangkok, AIS 3G in Chiang Mai, Chon Buri and Hua Hin, and AIS's Edge services outside of TOT 3G service areas.
It is discussing tariff rates with TOT, he said.
"We expect to have at least 20,000 subscribers in the first month of our services," said Mr Wichian.
He said AIS planned to spend 11 billion baht in 2010, with an additional planned budget of 45 to 50 billion for 3G under a three-year plan.
It plans to expand its 3G services on 900 MHz into another 15 provinces this year and wants to invest in fixed-line broadband service in underserved residential areas and with new businesses.
AIS projects revenue to grow by 3-5% this year, exceeding 100 billion baht after contracting in the first nine months of last year. It expects its data and non-voice revenue to grow by 20%.
AIS expects to add 1.5 million new subscribers this year out of an industry total of 3 million, bringing its total to 30 million by year-end.
The mobile industry is expected to grow 3-5% with a market value of 205 billion baht in 2010.
AIS shares (ADVANC) closed down 50 satang yesterday on the SET at 83.25 baht, in trade worth 516 million baht.
AIS plans Bangkok 3G service for Feb 1