By Sirivish Toomgum
Currently, it has around 890,000 active 3G-900MHz users, up from over 200,000 in January and about 400,000 in June.
Pratthana Leelapanang, AIS vice president for value-added service, said he believes that AIS could maintain the growth momentum in 3G subscriber number.
AIS this year has also targeted 8.4 million to 8.5 million active users, using mobile-phone devices to access mobile Internet service, up from the current over 8 million. The present number of the so-called mobile Internet users rose 43 per cent from the second quarter last year. Of the more than 8 million, 45 per cent are smart-phone users, 49 per cent are basic mobile-phone users, 5 per cent are users of aircards for wirelessly accessing Internet, and one per cent are users of tablet devices. AIS, which has more than 31 million mobile-phone subscribers, has about 3.7 million smart-phone users and about 50,000 table-device users.
AIS recently debuted its full 3G service in Greater Bangkok and seven other major provinces - Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Songkhla (Hat Yai), Phuket, southern Phetchaburi and northern Prachuap Khiri Khan (Cha-am-Hua Hin-Pranburi), and Nakhon Ratchasima. It has already begun the second phase of the 3G-network rollout, which will cover Chiang Rai, Pattaya, Nakhon Pathom, and Khon Kaen. The rollout is expected to be finished in October. Pratthana said AIS has also prepared the third phase of the 3G-network rollout but declined to specify more details.
All private cellular operators are waiting for the upcoming National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to get off the ground to grant licences to use 2.1GHz spectrum bands for providing the 3G service. The three private cellular operators have offered the 3G service on their existing spectra.
AIS senior vice president for marketing Tithipong Khiewpaisal said it is usual that the No 1 cellular operator like AIS would face challenges from the competitors in the 3G market. Recently, AIS rival Real Move set itself the ambitious goal of becoming No 1 in the 3G market, expecting to acquire 80 per cent of the 3G market next year, or 5 million of the estimated 8 million 3G users. Real Move is a subsidiary of True Corp.
This year, Real Move has targeted 1 million 3G users, up from around the present 100,000.
Real Move now has a total of 3,000 3G base stations, of which 1,700 are in Bangkok and the rest in 16 major provinces. Its network will be expanded to cover 70 per cent of the population in the first quarter of next year before rising to 97 per cent by the end of 2012.
Total Access Communication (DTAC) has launched a 3G service in Bangkok, with the plan to expand the network to cover 20 provinces this year and to 40 next year.