True Move has moved pre-emptively to beat its bigger rivals with Wednesday's launch of Thailand's first commercial fourth-generation (4G) wireless broadband service on a limited scale.
The country's third-largest mobile operator rolled out 4G and 3G service on the 2.1-gigahertz international standard with 500 base stations on each network.
This is on top of its existing 3G network of 13,000 base stations nationwide on the 850-megahertz spectrum.
The company's 4G network, the current ultimate in mobile communications technology and five times faster than 3G, serves users in the densely populated high-rises of Bangkok's central business district areas of Siam Square, Silom Road and Sathon Road.
True Move chief executive Suphachai Chearavanont presides over the launch of 4G wireless broadband service Wednesday. (Photo by Pawat Laopaisarntaksin)
The 4G network will be expanded to 15 major provinces this year including Chon Buri, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Surat Thani and Ayutthaya.
Subscription packages for 4G start from 699 baht. These include unlimited data service at a speed of 2 Gbps.
However, only a few handsets in Thailand are 4G-compatible.
True Move's 3G service, offered under the True Move H brand, averages one baht per megabyte, half the cost of its 2G service.
Suphachai Chearavanont, the chief executive of parent True Corporation, said the goal is to stay one step ahead of the group's bigger rivals in the areas of mobile 3G and 4G.
Through Real Future, True Corporation will by year-end increase the number of its 4G and 3G base stations on the 2.1-GHz spectrum to 2,000 and 5,000, respectively.
The number of 3G base stations on the 850-MHz spectrum will rise to 14,000 this year.
Mr Suphachai said True will spend another 15 billion baht on network expansion this year. "We plan to retain our leadership in the 3G market."
Adiruth Thothaveesansuk, True Move's managing director, said the company hopes to have 6 million 4G subscribers by year-end compared with 3.2 million at present for 3G.
Meanwhile, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) gave True Move another week to transfer full management of its third-generation network operation centre to CAT Telecom under the latter's 3G network contracts.
Failing that, the watchdog will send a letter warning the country's third-largest mobile operator to stop marketing its 3G services on the 850-megahertz spectrum.
If True continues to ignore the command, the NBTC could even order it to cease operations.
True had been ordered to transfer management to the state telecom enterprise by mid-April.
The NBTC last June ordered True and CAT to amend six items in their 3G network contracts, saying they violated Section 46 of the Frequency Allocation Act requiring licence holders and spectrum owners including CAT to manage spectrum rights on their own.
Secretary-general Takorn Tantasit said the NBTC will next week begin a serious examination of True Move H's 3G operations to see if CAT is using the 850-MHz spectrum with its own equipment and has full management control of the centre.