AIS bullish on 5G prospects

AIS bullish on 5G prospects

A million subscribers expected by year-end

Mr Somchai (centre left) presents the payment of the first instalment of 1.88 billion baht for the 700MHz band to the NBTC.
Mr Somchai (centre left) presents the payment of the first instalment of 1.88 billion baht for the 700MHz band to the NBTC.

Advanced Info Service (AIS), the country's largest mobile operator by subscribers, expects its 5G subscriber base will reach 1 million by the end of this year, thanks to the rise of 5G-enabled smartphones and 5G network roll-out nationwide.

The company had around 100,000 subscribers to its 5G services as of the end of last year, while data consumption is expected to surge by 20-30% this year.

AIS chief executive Somchai Lertsutiwong said the company has the largest spectrum portfolio in the market both in terms of the variety of frequency bands and bandwidth.

AIS holds 30 megahertz of bandwidth on the 700MHz band. The range should increase its 5G network coverage throughout the country, he said.

The company on Wednesday paid the first instalment of 1.88 billion baht for its 700MHz spectrum licence to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

AIS is scheduled to be awarded the 700MHz licence tomorrow, covering 20MHz of bandwidth. The company already obtained another 10MHz of bandwidth on the range from the 5G spectrum auction held last February.

Mr Somchai said the company's 3,000 base stations on the 700MHz network will be switched on by the end of this month.

As the company holds the largest subscriber base and largest amount of bandwidth on the 700MHz range, investment in base stations would be more economically efficient with a bigger return per unit than its two major competitors, he said.

"The 700 MHz band is at its most efficient with a full bandwidth of 30 MHz," he said, referring to the 5G standard known as 3GPP.

"This is why we were determined to bid for another 10MHz in the 700MHz band in February 2020, on top of the existing 20MHz in the 2019 acquisition to provide a total of 30MHz for our portfolio," Mr Somchai said.

Other key rivals -- True Move H Universal Communication (TUC) and Total Access Communication (DTAC) -- now hold 20MHz of bandwidth each on the 700MHz range.

"AIS will continue to expand its 5G network, which is also capable for the 4G service, throughout this year," said Mr Somchai.

However, the company's board has yet to determine the sum for investment for 2021. The budget is expected to be concluded by February, he said.

"Currently, AIS is ready to provide a full range of network capacity with the biggest portfolio as well as applications and solutions for enterprises and people handling the current stage of coping with Covid-19 and the recovery of the economy," he said.

In terms of the outlook for the telecom market this year, he said demand for services will continue to rise but the profit margin is likely to be the same as 2020, pressured by a drop in consumer purchasing power and price-cutting competition.

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