AIS rejects True’s free roaming offer on eve of 900MHz shutdown

15 Mar 2016

Thailand’s mobile market leader Advanced Info Service (AIS) has rejected third-placed cellular rival True Corp’s offer of free 900MHz roaming to provide continuity for its remaining 2G-only device users, on the basis that the arrangement would breach telecoms law, according to a source quoted by the Bangkok Post. AIS also allegedly complained that the National Broadcasting & Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) denied it access to an alternative 900MHz frequency slot for temporary usage – referring to part of the block recently won by start-up Jas Mobile, but so far unpaid for, and therefore not currently under licence. AIS’ 900MHz service is scheduled to shut down at midnight tonight (Tuesday 15 March), after True paid for its new technology-neutral 900MHz licence last Friday. AIS is providing roaming-based services for its remaining 2G users on its other main rival DTAC’s 1800MHz network of around 11,000 base stations, although coverage may differ from the previous 900MHz service (with around 16,000 base stations).

In a letter posted on its website on Friday AIS indicated that around 400,000 of its 2G users still depended on 900MHz coverage, whilst around 7.6 million 2G users had access to the DTAC 1800MHz roaming service, implying that approximately four million other 2G users had migrated to 3G/4G services (and/or to rival networks) in the last couple of months. Previously, in early January AIS had ramped up its migration campaign of offering subsidised 3G/4G smartphones and free 3G feature phones to its 2G-only device users – which numbered around twelve million at that date – a campaign which it says will continue in parallel to the 2G roaming service.

Late yesterday (Monday 14 March) AIS also said it has sought a court injunction to enable the 2G 900MHz service to be extended, Reuters reports. AIS CEO Somchai Lertsutiwong told a news conference that the discontinuation of the 2G service will have only a marginal impact on AIS’ revenue, and claimed: ‘We have done whatever we could to ensure service continuity.’