Thailand’s largest operator AIS has earmarked around THB35 billion (US$1 billion) for its investment budget as it plots to shore up its defences against merging rivals True and Dtac.
AIS chief executive Somchai Lertsutiwong said in an interview with Nikkei Asia, that the budget will be for this year with the lion’s share of THB12 billion going towards 5G network building. Meanwhile, THB8 billion has been allotted for broadband networks and the rest for its IT systems and R&D.
Somchai noted the operator currently commands 46% of the market share in mobile subscribers and earmarks 5G investment as key to staying competitive against its rivals.
"We continue to invest massively in order to retain our leadership in the Thai telecommunication market. 5G is key as it will provide smooth and smart access that will attract customers to choose us," said the chief executive.
Currently, AIS’ 5G network covers 75% of Thailand and the company aims to increase coverage to 85% by the end of 2022.
Somchai predicted there will be an opportunity to churn around 4-5% of customers during the merger of True and Dtac, warning there will be eventual clashes in corporate cultures and technical glitches in the process.
"That's why we invest a lot in network development. Because we realized that, in the end, consumers will choose the one who provides a strong and smart network," said Somchai.
The merger between True and Dtac has hit many roadblocks with much concern around competition and whether having two MNOs in the Thai market is beneficial to consumers. Shareholders of both operators voted to approve the merger, but recently government opposition has surfaced yet again.