The chief marketing officer of Thai mobile market leader Advanced Info Services (AIS), Somchai Lertsutiwong, has announced that by the end of next month the cellco will have 6,000 3G 2100MHz base transceiver stations (BTS) in operation across 67 provinces, up from its current total of 5,000 active BTS spanning 31 provinces, and claimed that by the end of August the 2100MHz W-CDMA/HSPA network will have at least 8,000 BTS nationwide, and 1,000 BTS providing in-building coverage. Mr Somchai, quoted by the Bangkok Post, added that if AIS reaches the August target coverage figure it will be five months ahead of its original schedule. Prior to its 2100MHz licensing in December, AIS rolled out a 900MHz 3G network covering Bangkok and 17 provinces, spanning 3,500 base stations by mid-2012, but it is migrating all 900MHz services to the new 2100MHz system. To assist its rollout, late last month AIS selected NEC Thailand to provide 3G mobile backhaul services based on Cisco technology.
Meanwhile, AIS’s executive chairman Somprasong Boonyachai has announced a plan to discontinue 2G services as soon as possible after the 900MHz build-transfer-operate (BTO) concession issued to AIS by state-owned telco TOT expires in 2015. Somprasong said customers using 2G services after 2015 will be encouraged to migrate to 3G services with attractive devices and tariff plans. 1800MHz 2G spectrum allocations utilised under BTO concessions issued by TOT’s sister telco CAT to AIS’s Digital Phone Co (DPC) subsidiary expires on 15 September this year. Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) is currently drawing up a plan for re-auctioning the 1800MHz mobile spectrum band, as well as provisions to continue 1800MHz services uninterrupted in the meantime – having approved a draft plan for a one-year transition period to continue 2G 1800MHz services beyond the concession expiry date. AIS has earmarked the 1800MHz band for 4G technology.