AIS rises to the challenge of the new normal
Largest mobile operator committed to driving up 5G investment to support economic recovery
As the front man of Advanced Info Service (AIS), the country's largest mobile operator by subscribers, Somchai Lertsutiwong considers the recent health crisis a colossal force that will propel the new normal and speed up digital transformation across the globe.
"In the last three months, the contagion has caused more tremendous consequences worldwide than any other crises," said Mr Somchai, chief executive of AIS.
"The ways Thais live and work will never be the same."
The Thai economy is being hit hard by the pandemic with GDP expected to see the biggest fall in a decade.
The IMF downgraded Thailand's economic outlook, expecting GDP to plunge 7.7% in 2020, reversing from a growth of 2.5% it projected last year.
Despite the first-quarter telecom service usage soaring 20% year-on-year, the AIS's revenue dropped 2-3% due to lockdown measures and declining purchasing power of people.
The outbreak, however, has been a big push for digital transformation globally as work procedures and people's lifestyle are changing in the wake of the pandemic.
He said people need digital infrastructure as a strong foundation to support and enhance work capability. "The latest technology like 5G is a new digital vein that will be used to move the country forward," he said.
He emphasised that new normal features are speeding up digitisation at a faster rate than earlier predicted.
Mr Somchai said AIS is committed to driving up 5G investment as the new digital infrastructure of the country, which will help support economic recovery and open the door to new business opportunities.
Citing a recent study by Boston Consulting Group, he said Thailand needs to get on board new economic features to boost the economy.
First, tourism needs to be promoted by highlighting the country's outstanding healthcare system. Second, the government should come up with a clear policy for investment promotion, particularly in the food and tourism sectors.
Third, the economic stimulus should be carried out by tapping into key sectors and lastly, cooperation between private and public sectors should be promoted, he said.
According to Mr Somchai, AIS aims to invest 35-40 billion baht to develop digital infrastructure this year. Its 5G network now reaches all 77 provinces.
The company pledges to boost 5G tech investment for economic recovery through the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), public health, retail, tourism as well as sustainable development projects.
In the EEC, the company aims to apply 5G tech to ground, air and marine sectors.
Amata Corporation, Saha Pathana Inter Holding and WHA Group have already begun testing the 5G Smart City with AIS in the EEC.
The testing of 5G Smart Airport has also been carried out by AIS and BBS Joint Venture Group, co-investor of U-Tapao Airport Development Project and Eastern Aviation City.
Port Authority of Thailand has started testing 5G in Chon Buri's Laem Chabang port area.
At present, AIS holds the most spectra -- 50 megahertz of bandwidth on low-band 700-900MHz, 170MHz of bandwidth on mid-band 1800-2600MHz as well as 1200MHz of bandwidth on high-band 26 gigahertz.
The company will launch the nation's first 5G network slicing technology in July. The technology helps design a network of each layer with consistency and flexibility, including the characteristics of each kind of industry and each area.
AIS aims to transform its myAIS application into a super app with the integration of lifestyle features by year-end. The app will provide full digital services and cater to people's behaviour in line with the new normal lifestyle.
During the crisis, the company's employees turned to a new style of work, especially call centre staff, who worked on the screen from home.
AIS shop staff also engaged with customers through online services, such as Line@AIS Shop.
Mr Somchai pointed out the crisis is spurring 5G tech adoption faster than earlier predicted.
Previously, 5G mass adoption was expected to gain ground in the next 2-3 years, but the crisis and digitisation trend is accelerating the move.