AIS mulls digital platform to rival foreign OTT players

AIS mulls digital platform to rival foreign OTT players

Consultants would help develop an easy-to-use interface

AIS chief executive Somchai Lertsutiwong says the company will begin developing the platform in early 2021.
AIS chief executive Somchai Lertsutiwong says the company will begin developing the platform in early 2021.

Advanced Info Service (AIS), the leading mobile operator by subscribers, is looking to create a new digital platform for daily life use among individuals and corporations that would rival foreign over-the-top platforms.

Details and scope of the platform should be known by the fourth quarter following consultants' recommendations, said AIS chief executive Somchai Lertsutiwong, and the company would begin developing the platform in early 2021.

In the third quarter the company will be in recovery mode following the coronavirus outbreak. The final quarter would be a time for management restructuring and reskilling of human resources to seek opportunity in the new ecosystem.

"AIS has proved successful in core engines of infrastructure development, including mobile network efficiency, fixed broadband business growth through AIS Fibre and enterprise solutions," Mr Somchai said.

Despite these achievements, AIS has yet to reach crucial success in its digital services, including entertainment app AIS Play, payment service AIS Rabbit Line Pay as well as gaming platform.

The new platform has been approved in principle by AIS's board. The company will assign consultants to study how it would be commonly used by individuals and corporations.

"Certainly the platform has to be attractive and easy to use," Mr Somchai said.

He said it remains premature to discuss what the new platform would deliver as it requires advice from consultants.

"The consultants may advise us to develop it by our existing AIS team or acquire some other platforms available in the market," Mr Somchai said. "This is up to their advice and AIS board's consideration."

It is also too early to define whether it will be a super app, chat communication tool or web-based digital life platform, he said. After the launch, it may take one or two years to know the public response about to the platform.

As the coronavirus took hold in Thailand, many people turned to digital platforms, most of which are run by foreign operators, as they practised social distancing and worked from home.

"Most Thais consume content on foreign platforms despite most of the content being locally produced," Mr Somchai said.

THREE CORE COMPONENTS

Mr Somchai said he learned from Silicon Valley stories that globally successful apps or startups must come with three core elements: deep tech talent, funding and proper ecosystem, including partnership and collaboration.

More data need to be sought to figure out key elements that would boost the success of the new platform, which must cater to daily demand among individuals and corporations, he said.

"Personally, I think sometimes accomplishments may be done through what is not that too complicated," said Mr Somchai.

He said the pandemic is accelerating digital transformation globally. It creates opportunities and challenges for AIS on how to ride this rapid digital transformation. And the company believes it is the right time for restructuring operational management and reskilling all staff to be more efficient in dealing with the new business ecosystem in the post-Covid world.

5G BENEFIT

The country held the 5G spectrum licence auction in February and the ultra-fast network is expected to be a boon for various industrial sectors.

But as the coronavirus outbreak erupted in the country, AIS capitalised on 5G tech for telemedicine.

It rolled out 5G-enabled robots to assist doctors in communication with Covid-19 patients, reducing the risk of infection among medical personnel. These robots, developed under the 5G Robot Platform, can be customised to fulfil each hospital's work.

"This is a very useful use case without much complication, thanks to 5G spectrum resources that come on time," Mr Somchai said.

NETWORK INVESTMENT BOOST

AIS has earmarked 35-40 billion baht for network investment in 2020, doubling from the amount it set out annually over the past few years.

Although the broad 5G adoption or 5G tech development by industrial players is expected to take about two years, Mr Somchai said AIS stands ready to be the first mover in the market which would grab the opportunity when the innovative tech ecosystem matures.

The slowdown of network expansion would jeopardise all industrial sectors, he said.

Despite the pandemic and economic slowdown, AIS is committed to expanding the 5G network, he said, adding that all provinces have now experienced 5G signal coverage after the company in February launched 5G network commercially on the 2600-megahertz range it acquired in the auction.


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