January 06, 2014 00:00 By Usanee Mongkolporn
Telecom holding InTouch will have its cellular flagship Advanced Info Service (AIS) raise its investment on the 3G-2.1GHz nationwide network rollout to Bt90 billion from the previously announced Bt70 billion during 2013-2015 as part of its turn to focus m
When asked what InTouch would do after failing to clinch the target Standard Definition (SD) variety channel licence, InTouch executive committee chairman Somprasong Boonyachai said the company still has other business targets to pursue. He made the remark after the end of the auction of 24 digital TV channel licences late last month, which InTouch took part in.
He added that AIS would also increase its investment on the 3G network rollout nation?wide to Bt90 billion.
According to AIS filing to the Stock Exchange of Thailand in the third quarter last year, it maintained investment plans of Bt70 billion for 2013-2015 for the nationwide rollout of 3G-2.1GHz network. Of that total, about Bt19 billion was already spent during the first nine months of 2013.
According to the filing, since AIS subsidiary Advanced Wireless Network received the licence to operate 3G-2.1GHz in December 2012, it achieved 70 per cent coverage in more than 77 provinces and the target is to provide 90 per cent population coverage by 2014 and 97 per cent by 2015.
Somprasong said that the bid price of the SD variety licence was raised up too high during the bidding process and did not match with the company’s feasibility study. This prompted InTouch to decide to discontinue raising its bid price.
He added that other bidders, who are in the TV broadcasting business, were expected to set aside a higher budget than InTouch for bidding for the licences. To enter the digital TV broadcasting market, one needed to prepare to make huge investment for the licences and content development.
There are 24 digital TV channel licences available in the auction, of which seven are in the SD variety category. The starting bid price of the SD variety licence was Bt380 million and the range of the final bidding prices paid by the seven bid winners was between Bt2.2 billion to Bt2.355 billion per licence.
An AIS executive source said that if InTouch group wants to enter the digital TV business, it must be able to make sure that it would become one of the top three market players. If not, it was not worth charging into that sector.
Somprasong said that the company still had a number of remaining business targets to pursue, including the plan to bid for the 1800MHz spectrum licences to provide 4G wireless broadband service.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) is expected to call for bids for the 1800MHz spectrum late this year.
Last year InTouch disclosed its business targets or what it called 8 ‘breakthroughs’, one of which was to bid for digital TV licences.
Among the achieved breakthroughs are the AIS launch of the 3G-2.1GHz service, the NBTC’s awarding of a telecom licence to Thaicom to operate the planned Thaicom 7 satellite, and also the InTouch’s launch of a venture capital.