Thai mobile market leader Advanced Info Services (AIS) has signed a USD120 million contract with five equipment providers to expand and upgrade its network. Under the deal Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia, NEC and Siemens will supply infrastructure and provide logistical support for projects to be completed in the first half of 2006. AIS has earmarked at least THB16 billion (USD400 million) for network upgrades this year, of which half will be spent in the first semester. Including the new contract, the cellco has invested around THB6.5 billion so far this year. The company invested USD250 million in the network last year.
AIS’ net subscriber additions in the past months have been hit by a number of negative factors, including campaigns by opponents of prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to boycott services offered by companies affiliated with conglomerate Shin Corp, which owns 42% of AIS. Opposition has focused on Shin’s recent takeover by the Singapore government’s investment arm Temasek. Take-up has also been affected by intensifying competition in the mobile sector, a slowing economy and political uncertainty ahead of next month’s general elections. An AIS executive reported that the company signed up around 50,000 net new subscribers in February, with the rate of new additions expected to be around the same this month. In January it added 104,000 users, down from 150,000 in December 2005.