AIS seeks 2 major partnership deals in 2022
Firm aims to become a 'cognitive telco' as it fights back competition
Advanced Info Service (AIS), the country's largest mobile operator by subscriber base, aims to seal two major partnership deals this year in a drive to complement its existing digital service.
Speaking exclusively with the Bangkok Post, AIS chief executive Somchai Lertsutiwong said one of the deals would involve retail business. He did not reveal the other deal.
The company is also studying the prospects of cryptocurrency and the metaverse to enliven its business outlook, said Mr Somchai.
He said AIS is focused on maintaining the leading position for mobile business in terms of customer perception and value of services, shrugging off the planned merger between True Corporation Plc and Total Access Communication Plc (DTAC), the two other large mobile operators in Thailand.
Mr Somchai said the company has been developing new businesses, its ecosystem and management to bolster customer engagement and future revenue streams.
"The telecom market in 2022 will look like completely different, driven by both the merger of True and DTAC as well as AIS's new strategic move to become a cognitive telco [smart organisation] over the next three years," he said.
In September last year, AIS and Siam Commercial Bank announced the establishment of a joint venture, AISCB, to focus on digital financial services, particularly digital lending.
The joint venture is scheduled to launch its service in the next few months, Mr Somchai said.
Rapid changes in consumer behaviour and the planned merger of the two carriers accelerated AIS's move to become a "cognitive telco", he said.
Annual growth in the telecom sector is normally 2% higher than the country's GDP, but if the merger is approved, that would change this year, said Mr Somchai. A merger would leave only two major players in the market.
The 5G network is fundamental infrastructure for innovation adoption in the new economy, he said.
"Speed and service quality are not enough for telcos to operate from 2022," said Mr Somchai.
"Differentiation is the most important factor, supported by big data analysis and artificial intelligence."
He was not concerned by projections giving the merged carrier the biggest number of subscribers.
"AIS's profit is still 1,000% higher than the merged unit, and our market cap is 300% larger than the merged unit," said Mr Somchai.
More importantly, he said, AIS holds a combined 1,450 megahertz of spectrum bandwidth, while the two rivals hold a combined 1,350MHz.
The cognitive telco strategic plan has been approved by the board, setting the stage for AIS to develop before its rivals, said Mr Somchai.
"Customer experience can predict which companies will win in this sector," he said.
The cognitive telco strategy aims to make AIS the first to boost productivity and provide the greatest benefit to customers, said Mr Somchai.
The second prong is continued business growth for home internet and corporate customers.
The final tier calls for the company to gear up investment in digital business for strong future growth, he said.
In addition, AIS is committed to generating sustainable growth by adding new services and applying knowledge gained from experience to its services and operations to maintain its leading position in the market, said Mr Somchai.
Telecom infrastructure capacity is vital to ensure customers can receive services in a timely fashion, he said.
"This is why we have been expanding network capacity, not waiting for actual demand to come first, especially for the 5G network," said Mr Somchai.
He said the AIS 5G network now covers 100% of the population of Bangkok and the Eastern Economic Corridor.
Nationwide coverage is at 76% and is expected to reach 90% this year, said Mr Somchai.
He said demand for field engineers at telecom companies is set to decline, while more data scientists and data analytics experts are needed.
AIS has around 400 employees in the data field, 300 of which engage in the mobile and fixed broadband sphere, with the rest in new services and innovation through cooperation with partners.