4G smartphones enjoy sharp sales spurt
Fourth generation (4G) smartphones are gaining a foothold in Thailand's mobile handset market, as evidenced by a strong increase in unit sales in the first quarter.
4G mobile phones accounted for a 17% market share of the total 4.3 million units of first-quarter handset sales, said Prisana Ratanasuwanasri, senior vice-president for postpaid operations at Total Access Communication (DTAC). Of the 4.3 million units sold, 76.5% were smartphones.
Thailand's mobile handset sales totalled 19 million units in 2014. Of the total, 64.8% were smartphones, and only 8% of total smartphone sales were 4G handsets.
Ms Prisana said the sharp increase had been fuelled by the greater availability and affordability of 4G smartphones as well as the imminent arrival of 4G commercial wireless broadband service.
The price gap between 4G and 3G handsets will disappear next year.
Ms Prisana said mobile operators were gearing up to supply their own smartphones serving mid- to lower-tier customers to cash in on the growing demand for mobile data communications.
"We believe the 4G handset market will grow 15% on average each quarter," she said.
4G handset prices are set to decline drastically because the cost of the chips used in the phones had declined significantly this year, thanks to larger economies of scale, said Ms Prisana.
She also said DTAC customers felt more confident about using handsets made by mobile operators rather than Chinese or Taiwanese brands, thanks to operators' after-sales service offerings and attractive promotional packages.
DTAC sold 200,000 of its own-brand smartphones in the first quarter, compared with 750,000 units sold in the whole of 2014.
"We aim to sell 1 million of our smartphones this year," said Ms Prisana.
DTAC has 28.5 million subscribers, of which 5 million still use the 2G mobile service.
The company has 1.2 million 4G subscribers with 3G customers accounting for the remainder.
"We expect the number of 4G users to more than double to 2.5 million by the year-end," she added.
DTAC yesterday launched "Eagle X", the first model of its own-brand 4G smartphone, priced 5,990 baht. DTAC co-produced the phone with Chinese telecom equipment provider ZTE Corporation.
"We plan to roll lout another two 4G handset models this year to cash in on the market momentum," said Ms Prisana.