Somchai firm on transforming AIS into 'digital life service provider

Corporate July 05, 2014 00:00

By Sirivish Toomgum
The Nation

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Advanced Info Service (AIS) aims to transform itself from being a telecom operator into what it terms a "digital life service provider", under the three-year vision of its new chief executive officer, Somchai Lertsutiwong.

Somchai said yesterday that AIS would leverage its competent staff and strong partners to achieve the goal. 
   It will also invest more in data-analysis tools to enable it to get more insights into customers’ needs, while AIS staff will develop more knowledge and sharpen digital-technology skills in line with changes in customer behaviour.
   Regarding the suspended plan of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to auction 1,800MHz and 900MHz spectrum licences, the new CEO said he was confident that the relevant state authorities, after they learn more about the details of the auctions, would soon deliver a solution on what should take place next.
   Whatever path they decide to take, he believes the issue will be tackled this year.
   The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) ordered the watchdog to suspend the 1,800MHz and 900MHz auctions plan, pending its complete clarification of the plans to the junta. 
   The NCPO took this step in order to ensure project transparency. 
   Somchai said he was confident that the use of these two spectra to benefit the national interest would occur soon. However, even if a solution did not emerge soon, AIS would find ways to take good care of its customers, he stressed.
   AIS, which has 17.5MHz of bandwidth in the 900MHz spectrum and 15MHz of bandwidth in the 2.1GHz spectrum, is keen to acquire new bandwidth to serve rising demand for data service from its huge number of subscribers. 
   By the end of the first quarter, AIS had rolled out 16,800 base stations for 3G-2.1GHz mobile broadband service, covering 90 per cent of the population. 
   Its number of 3G-2.1GHz customers had expanded to 26 million, representing 62 per cent of the company’s 42 million subscribers and 59 per cent in terms of AIS’s revenue during the first quarter.
   When asked if he was concerned that AIS would experience any political problems under the NCPO, Somchai said he had no such worries.
   AIS is the flagship of InTouch Holdings, formerly known as Shin Corp, which was founded by the family of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. 
   The CEO added that AIS was also working on a plan to launch 4G service, but he declined to provide details.
   AIS’s rivals – True Corp and Total Access Communication (DTAC) – have already launched 4G service, using their existing 2.1GHz bandwidth.
   The AIS board late last month appointed veteran executive Somchai as its new chief executive, effective July 1. 
   He replaces Wichian Mektrakarn, who has retired but will remain with the company as executive adviser on a two-year term. 
   Prior to his new post, Somchai was chief marketing officer of the cellular operator. He has been with the Shin – now InTouch – group since 1990.
   According to a filing to the Stock Exchange of Thailand in May, AIS expected service-revenue growth of between 6 per cent and 8 per cent this year. 
   It also expected growth momentum to pick up in the second half, underpinned by decent 3G network quality and coverage.