AIS to launch 4G next month

AIS to launch 4G next month

SET-listed Advanced Info Service Plc (AIS) is preparing to launch mass-market fourth-generation (4G) service by mid-December.

AIS executive Sutichai Cheunchoosil shows the cheque. PORNPROM SATRABHAYA

The move comes after the country's largest mobile operator let its two smaller rivals lead the new-generation mobile broadband market for a year.

AIS, through its subsidiary Advanced Wireless Network (AWN), will have to make every effort to grab a major share of the 4G market to maintain its leadership of the overall market, industry veterans said.

AWN yesterday gave the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) a cashier's cheque for 21.1 billion baht including VAT as a first half-payment of its bidding amount for an 18-year licence to provide 4G service on the 1800-megahertz spectrum.

True Move H Universal Communication, the True Corporation subsidiary that won the first licence on the spectrum, plans to make its first half-payment of 20.5 billion baht next week.

AIS chief executive Somchai Lertsutiwong expects fierce competition in the 4G market next year, sparked by innovative mobile applications.

More players are also jumping into the fray including state enterprises TOT Plc and CAT Telecom.

As of Sept 30, AIS had 37.8 million subscribers -- 35.9 million 3G customers and 1.9 million 2G users.

Mr Somchai said AIS would provide 4G tariff rates in line with the NBTC's regulations.

He said he could not elaborate on AIS's 4G business plans and marketing due to the NBTC's silent-period restriction.

NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said the telecom committee would meet today to endorse the licensing approval process.

The regulator expects to award a second licence to AWN tomorrow.

Winning bidders must pay the first half of the bidding amount within 90 days of the auction date. Another 25% must be paid next year and the rest in 2017.

Mr Takorn insists the NBTC will strictly govern the promotional service charges of  4G service. Winners of 1800-MHz licences must provide 4G tariffs lower than 69 satang a minute for voice service and 26 satang a megabyte for data service.

AIS shares (ADVANC) closed yesterday on the SET at 212 baht, unchanged, in trade worth 840 million baht.

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