Thai mobile market leader Advanced Info Service (AIS) confirmed in a press release that its official launch of 4G LTE services earlier this week saw it switch on LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) network technology covering Bangkok and a total of 42 of 77 Thai provinces, using its newly-won 1800MHz technology-neutral licence and a portion of its existing 2100MHz spectrum previously reserved purely for its 3G services. The ‘AIS 4G Advanced’ service is available via 7,000 base stations, while the release stated that the company targets ‘full coverage in every province’ by May 2016. Various 4G post-paid and pre-paid packages are on offer, and existing mobile internet customers with compatible devices can use 4G data under their existing tariffs, with no additional charges.
Quoted at a press conference by the Bangkok Post, AIS added that it offers Thailand’s fastest mobile data speeds at up to 150Mbps via the LTE-A network, while it expects to invest a further THB40 billion (USD1.11 billion) this year on expanding 3G and 4G LTE networks, with THB20 billion of the total earmarked for doubling LTE base stations to 14,000 by Q2 2016 (on top of an initial THB14 billion spent on deploying LTE at 7,000 sites over the last two months). Furthermore, AIS expects to sign a new partnership agreement with state-owned TOT to lease additional 4G 2100MHz capacity from the latter by March, which will further boost LTE-A speeds. Although acknowledging that there are a limited number of LTE-A enabled smartphones currently available in the Thai market, AIS noted that China’s Huawei has agreed to produce LTE-A devices for the cellco this year supporting a maximum speed of 300Mbps. AIS’ consumer website confirms that its self-branded ‘Lava’ 4G handset range supports maximum download/upload of 150Mbps/52Mbps.
AIS simultaneously launched its new full-scale entertainment app ‘AIS Play’, featuring 100 TV channels for live and recorded viewing, and on-demand movies, sports and TV series; 4G package subscribers receive AIS Play with 100GB of AIS Cloud virtual storage for no additional cost for a year.
On the same day as the AIS 4G launch (26 January), rival True Corp announced an investment budget of THB56 billion this year to roll out multi-band LTE-A using its recently acquired 1800MHz and 900MHz tech-neutral spectrum, augmenting its existing 2100MHz LTE services and aiming for LTE-A coverage of 97% of the population. Quoted by the Bangkok Post, True aims to install 13,500 900MHz base stations on the LTE-A network in provincial and rural areas, with another 3,000 to 4,000 1800MHz LTE-A base stations earmarked for services in Bangkok and other major cities.