Mobile Competition leads to price wars in Thailand

In the complex commercial environment of Thailand’s operator market, there is a mix of state-owned companies and private operators functioning under a wide variety of corporate and regulatory structures and interfaces, according to Research & Markets.

There are three major fixed-line operators – one government-owned and two private. Despite the effort put into this segment of the market, fixed-line services are outnumbered by mobile phone services by a ratio of more than ten to one. Nonetheless, with a teledensity of a little more than 10% in 2011, fixed-line services remain an integral part of the telecommunications environment in the country.

A major effort by the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (MICT) to promote DSL broadband services saw the start of a potentially enhanced role for the copper network. While reasonably good infrastructure has been put in place to support data services, this segment of the market has only recently been experiencing significant growth. Coming into 2012 fixed broadband internet penetration was around 6%.

In the meantime the mobile segment of the market continues its relatively strong growth, although not quite at the heady rates experienced a few years back. When two new mobile players – TA Orange (later to become True move) and Hutchison CAT – entered the market to challenge the entrenched duopoly of AIS and DTAC, competition became increasingly vigorous. Two other operators, Thai Mobile and CAT Mobile, also entered the market in a confusing fashion and without causing much impact. True Move, however, had managed to grab a sizeable chunk of the market and had around 25% of total subscribers by 2011.

The local mobile sector has seen a sustained period of high competition with heavy price-cutting as the battle for market share raged. There was likely to be a push for consolidation, especially as the market gets closer to saturation. The government’s sectoral reform, once finalised, should also have a major impact on the shape and direction of the market. The matter of the government issuing 3G licences had become a prolonged saga causing much angst in the local industry– but the end was in sight.

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