Thailand’s largest cellco by users, Advanced Info Service (AIS), has announced the full commercial launch of 3G W-CDMA/HSPA services in Bangkok and seven other provinces, following the expansion of its number of 900MHz UMTS base stations from just a few hundred to 1,884. Thai newspaper The Nation reports that AIS’s maximum theoretical downstream connection speed is 21.6Mbps, implying that the network is upgraded to HSPA+ standard, whilst the company has also upgraded the ‘standard’ peak data download rate available on its network from 296kbps to 384kbps. The provincial 3G launches (some targeting specific areas only) are in: Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Songkhla (Hat Yai), Phuket, southern Phetchaburi and northern Prachuap Khiri Khan (Cha-am-Hua Hin-Pranburi) and Nakhon Ratchasima.
AIS has approximately 200,000 existing 3G customers, but about 7.5 million active mobile internet users on its 2.5G EDGE network; it reported around four million content downloads per month in the second quarter, up from 2.5 million per month a year earlier. As well as encouraging data users to switch to the new, expanded 3.5G network, AIS announced that it will introduce roaming on state-run TOT’s 2100MHz W-CDMA/HSPA network – currently undergoing nationwide expansion – on 7 October. A maximum of one million AIS customers will be allowed to roam on the network in one year, providing national 3G coverage in the interim period before the Thai authorities finally get around to issuing 2100MHz UMTS licences to privately-owned operators.