Telecom merger boosting 5G speeds
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Telecom merger boosting 5G speeds

DTAC users the main beneficiaries of access to 2.6GHz spectrum band. By Robert Wyrzykowski

Studies have shown that users have faster 5G speeds and a better 5G video experience when connected to band n41, or 2.6GHz. This spectrum band is becoming accessible to more users in Thailand because of the merger between DTAC and TrueMove H. As a result, it is helping to improve their experience, a new analysis shows.

Opensignal, an analytics company specialising in quantifying the mobile-network experience, has compared the experience of smartphone users on Thai operators depending on the primary 5G band to which they connect, in December 2022 and March 2023 -- before and after the completion of the DTAC-True merger.

Advanced Info Service users had the highest average amount of spectrum used for 5G connectivity, at 42.7MHz in March 2023, which resulted in the fastest download speeds. However, while DTAC users observed very low 5G speeds in December compared to the other two operators, this changed in March -- around the time of the merger. We saw a significant boost in experience as more users started to access the 2.6GHz 5G band.

Mobile operators in Thailand mainly use two spectrum bands for 5G: n28 (700MHz) and n41 (2.6GHz). The former provides wider coverage but the latter ensures higher capacity -- and, as a result, better throughput and faster speeds for mobile users.

There are substantial differences in spectrum holdings among the three main Thai operators. While AIS licensed 100MHz and True 90MHz in the 2.6GHz band, DTAC did not secure any frequencies in this band during the 2020 spectrum auction. As a result, it had to deploy 5G only in the 700MHz band.


In December, Opensignal observed that users on the DTAC network struggled with much slower average 5G download speeds than their peers connecting on AIS or True, at around 30Mbps.

However, the situation changed in March. While the companies have yet to fully consolidate under the new True Corp brand, and network integration continues, 5G readings for DTAC users on the 2.6GHz band, part of which is currently licensed to TrueMove, are improving. Average 5G download speed now clocks in at 105.7Mbps, more than three times faster than on the 700MHz band.

As a result, DTAC's average overall 5G download speed increased 2.8 times in March compared to December -- from 29.6Mbps to 82.1Mbps. Interestingly, 5G download speeds for True customers on the 2.6GHz band dropped substantially from 102.5Mbps in December to 83.9Mbps in March, which would be partially attributed to both companies sharing the band now.

The average 5G spectrum bandwidth used on the DTAC network jumped from 19.5MHz in December to 22.9MHz in March. There were no statistically significant changes in the average spectrum bandwidth used by AIS and TrueMove H users' 5G connections over the same period.

Looking at how the proportions of 5G readings per band changed between December and March, there was a strong shift on DTAC from the 700MHz to the 2.6GHz band. While in December DTAC still relied entirely on the 700MHz band to provide 5G services, the 2.6GHz band accounted for nearly 80% of 5G readings on DTAC in March.

We did not observe a substantial shift in the case of AIS and TrueMove H, as the proportions of 5G readings on the 700MHz band remained stable between December and March -- at around 8.6% and 15.2%, respectively.

Not only does increased spectrum bandwidth contribute to faster 5G download speeds, it also improves the quality of other mobile services, an Opensignal analysis of 5G video experience scores for Thai operators shows.

Thai 5G users generally enjoy a better video experience when they connect to 5G services over 2.6GHz than over the 700MHz band -- with the differences in scores in March ranging from 2.9 and 3.2 points for DTAC and TrueMove H, respectively, to 6 points for AIS.


Opensignal has seen how a newly merged operator can change its market position elsewhere. Our recent analysis of Italy's competitive landscape shows that Wind and Tre joining forces in 2020 led to the creation of a market player that was able to disrupt the Italian market and win several network experience awards in Opensignal reports.

AIS dominated the awards tables in the Opensignal Thailand Mobile Network Experience reports published in May and November 2022, when it won all the 5G speed and experience awards outright. With their infrastructure and spectrum licences combined, along with their customer bases, the DTAC-TrueMove H merger gives the company new assets to help it to create a stronger challenge to AIS in the mobile network experience.

Robert Wyrzykowski is a senior analyst at Opensignal.

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