July 04--Speeding up acquisition of spectrum bandwidth is the biggest challenge facing the new boss of Advanced Info Service (AIS) as the company battles to maintain its status as the country's biggest mobile operator.
Chief executive Somchai Lertsutiwong acknowledges that AIS will have the least amount of bandwidth once its concession with TOT Plc expires in September 2015.
Mr Somchai, who took the helm on July 1, inherits an otherwise healthy company that most analysts agree is poised for big growth next year and beyond.
AIS has 42 million subscribers, 26.5 million of whom are 3G customers.
"Faced with the inconvenient fact of becoming the mobile operator with the least amount of bandwidth, AIS is at a disadvantage to compete with our smaller rivals in the near future," Mr Somchai said.
AIS has embarked on a major restructuring to deal with intense competition in the local mobile market, where consumers are demanding sophisticated new applications and next-generation devices.
Under the new structure, the company divided its businesses into three core groups: 3G service on the 2100-MHz spectrum and 4G service on the expected new spectrum, operated by AWN Co; fibre-to-home and VDSL broadband internet, run by Super Broadband Network; and e-commerce and digital content.
An uphill task lies ahead for AIS, but Mr Somchai said the company is determined to efficiently tackle its key challenges.
The CEO will today outline his business direction and strategy under the theme "The Next AIS".
In his view, the temporary suspension of this year's 4G spectrum auction by the military regime will affect AIS the most.
Real Future, the 3G arm of rival True Corporation, was the first company to launch commercial 4G service on the 2.1-gigahertz spectrum.
True expects to have 1 million 4G subscribers this year, up from the current 250,000.
Second-ranked DTAC recently introduced its own 4G commercial service. AIS has yet to begin 4G service.
Real Future also operates 3G on 15 MHz of the 850-MHz spectrum, together with concession owner CAT Telecom.
In addition, the three big mobile operators each provide 3G service on 15 MHz of the 2100-MHz spectrum.
Mr Somchai said AIS will fight to the end to win a licence to provide 4G service on the 1800-MHz spectrum.