Demand for 5G handsets, services is strong
The roll-out of the iPhone 12 line-up, heavy subsidies from mobile operators and tax rebate incentives are expected to be catalysts for demand for 5G-enabled smartphones and 5G usage in the country, according to tech pundits.
Apple began selling its 5G-compatible iPhone 12 range in Thailand on Friday. This comprises the iPhone 12 mini, which has a starting price of 25,900 baht, the iPhone 12 at 29,900 baht, iPhone 12 Pro at 36,900 baht and iPhone 12 Pro Max at 39,900 baht.
The top two mobile operators -- Advanced Info Service (AIS) and True Move H Universal Communication -- yesterday arranged a variety of activities shortly after midnight to distribute iPhone 12s to customers who pre-ordered their phones. They worked with logistics partners in order to deliver the handsets.
True Move H had a drive-through event that allowed customers to pick up their phones by car at True Digital Park in Phra Khanong district shortly after midnight.
The two operators are offering a discount of almost 12,000 baht for iPhone 12 handsets for subscribers to their basic plan packages. Total Access Communication (DTAC), another major mobile operator, is offering a discount of up to 22,000 baht for existing subscribers.
"The launch of the iPhone 12, which supports 5G once network coverage becomes countrywide, will drive 5G usage in Thailand in 2021," said Pongsakorn Corvanich, head of AIS's product marketing and postpaid unit.
Over the past six weeks, the market has seen the roll-out of entry level 5G-enabled handsets at about 10,000 baht and mid-range 5G-enabled handsets at about 15,000 baht. Between March and mid-October, only manufacturers' flagship models supported 5G.
"As the prices of 5G-enabled smartphones get closer to the prices of 4G handsets, this will stimulate demand for 5G devices and usage of mobile services," said Mr Pongsakorn.
He said the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max are likely to be the first wave of handsets adopted by users. The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini are expected to be the second wave, which will gain momentum through the second half of next year.
AIS expects about 100,000 subscribers to be using its 5G mobile packages by the end of 2020.
Sura Khanittaweekul, chief executive of SET-listed IT retail chain Com7, said sales of handsets in the iPhone 12 range during the pre-booking period had exceeded sales from its iPhone 11 range.
The blue handset was the best-seller during this period, he said.
Mr Sura suggested owners of iPhone X and iPhone 8 models would be the largest group of consumers looking to upgrade their handsets to models from the iPhone 12 range.
He said the local smartphone market is expected to see flat growth this year with sales of about 15 million units.
However, the roll-out of 5G handsets, price competition among mobile operators and the tax rebate programme could help influence consumers to make purchases, said Mr Sura.
He said sales of the iPhone 12 line-up and the tax rebate are expected to boost Com7's revenue in the final quarter. Its 2020 revenue is expected to grow 10% year-on-year from 33 billion baht in 2019.
"Sales in the third and fourth quarters could help compensate for the drop in second-quarter sales during the lockdown," said Mr Sura.