Thai cellco Digital Total Access Communication (DTAC) has allocated an additional 2×5MHz of its refarmed 1800MHz spectrum to its 4G LTE services, to match the 2×15MHz bandwidth LTE-1800 services being launched this month by rivals Advanced Info Service (AIS) and True Corp under their newly won licences. ‘The additional bandwidth will allow us to offer our customers a significantly improved data experience through our 2,200 4G base stations that can accommodate five million subscribers,’ said DTAC’s CTO Prathet Tankuranun, quoted by Reuters, adding: ‘Our average increase in 4G network speed will be about 30% with a [maximum] speed of 100Mbps, up from 60-70Mbps now.’ Mr Prathet said the number of new 4G subscribers had increased significantly with an average of 200,000 subscriptions per month, mainly because of the greater availability of more affordable 4G smartphones. Prathet also stated DTAC would add another 5MHz to the 1800MHz LTE service next year if demand calls for it, while Prisana Ratanasuwansri, DTAC’s senior vice-president for the post-paid division, added: ‘We expect to have ten million 4G subscribers in 2016, up from an expected 2.5 million this year. We aim for the number of data users to top 80% of our subscriber base by 2017.’ It is notable, however, that DTAC is potentially at a disadvantage to AIS and True because its 1800MHz build-transfer-operate (BTO) concession expires in 2018, compared to the newly licensed pair’s 4G licences which run until 2033. Although DTAC – like True – also operates 2100MHz LTE services, the 2100MHz bandwidth is limited as it is split between 4G and its 3G UMTS network.
Meanwhile, AIS, which has lagged True and DTAC in bringing LTE to market, has announced plans to invest THB14.5 billion (USD405.4 million) in the first phase of its 1800MHz 4G network rollout which will see its preliminary service launch this month. CEO Somchai Lertsuthiwong said the company expects to install 6,000 LTE base stations by January, with nationwide rollout planned over the course of 2016, whilst stating: ‘We expect more than two million subscribers of 4G service next year,’ adding that there was currently demand from four million users. Nokia Networks, Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp are partnering AIS on 4G network equipment and handsets.