The vexed issue regarding the auctions of 3G and WiMAX licences had not reached a satisfactory conclusion at the time of updating this edition of BMI’s Thailand Telecommunications Report, meaning that operators remained uncertain of how to budget for much-needed network upgrades for the rest of the year, while we ourselves remained uncertain of how to factor the launches of next-generation services into our forecasts.
That said, Q409 yielded some very strong results for Thailand’s top three mobile operators, a trend that continued into Q110, at least for market leaders AIS and DTAC. Third-ranked True Move had not published its Q110 results at the time of writing, but all the indications were that it, too, had performed well in the first quarter of the year.
Although we have had to estimate the performances of both Hutchison Telecom and Thai Mobile pending the transfer of Hutchison’s stake in its Thai business to its partner CAT Telecom and the relaunch of Thai Mobile by incumbent TOT, it is clear that greater pricing competition, the canny bundling of smartphones to both prepaid and postpaid customers alike and efforts to make more effective use of spectrum in order to facilitate better and faster mobile value-added services (mVAS) have all paid dividends, helping subscriber numbers to continue growing and slowing the rate of mobile ARPU decline.
In 2010, operators are focusing expansion efforts on the rural sector, where the greatest organic growth opportunities are to be found. By the end of the year, we forecast a total subscriber base of 68.752mn, representing 105.6% of the population. By the end of our forecast period, in 2014, we expect the penetration rate willreach 119.8%.
|YEAR||Internet Users||Population||% Pen.||GDP p.c.*||Usage Source|
Although fixed-line operators such as TOT, TT&T, True and others all managed to grow their broadband user bases in 2009, growth was less rapid than we had been expecting and we now believe that there were just 1.460mn fixed broadband subscribers in Thailand at the end of the year, making for a penetration rate of 2.3%. We have reined in our forecasts for this sector. We now expect to see 4.411mn subscribers by 2014, or a penetration rate of 6.6%.
A new regulatory body – governing both the telecommunications and media markets – is to be established later this year, it is reported. However, although the appropriate legislation has been drafted, we expect that this ambition will not be realised.
This comes after more than a decade of similar announcements, but it is more important than ever that this body be established as it will be charged with licensing 3G and WiMAX service providers as well as converting ‘private’ operators’ concessions into full-service licences, a long overdue move that will finally bring real competition to the Thai market.
In 2010, 66 million mobile-phone numbers were in use in Thailand, of which 88 per cent were prepaid and 10.7 per cent post-paid. Mobile-phone calls in last years fourth quarter were 252 minutes long on average.
Post-paid calls were 484 minutes long and prepaid calls 226 minutes, according to a recent report from the National Telecommunications Commission. The monthly average revenue per user ARPU, excluding interconnection revenue, in the fourth quarter was Bt203. The post-paid ARPU was Bt579 and prepaid ARPU Bt163.The average fourth-quarter airtime rate was Bt1.20 per minute. The average post-paid rate was Bt1.30 and prepaid rate Bt1.15.
The combined voice revenue of the top three cellular players last year was Bt118.43 billion, and their data revenue was Bt24.44 billion.Of the total data revenue Advanced Info Service contributed Bt13.74 billion, Total Access Communication Bt7.56 billion and True Move Bt3.13 billionLast year, AIS commanded a 43.5-per-cent share of the mobile-phone user market, while DTAC controlled 29.8 per cent, True Move 23.0 per cent, CAT Telecom and its joint venture Hutchison-Wireless Multimedia a combined 2.6 per cent, and TOT 0.1 per cent.