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True Move dials up Asean expansion

Mobile player aims to make regional inroads starting next year

Suphachai Chearavanont, chief executive of True Corporation, believes Thailand is likely to opt for 5G wireless technology by 2020 that uses mobile WiFi hotspots instead of mass deployments of 5G infrastructure. (Photo by PORNPROM SATRABHAYA)

True Move seeks to go overseas by 2018, driven by ambitions to make the country's third-largest mobile company a regional player, says True Corporation boss Suphachai Chearavanont.

"We're looking to build our [mobile business] presence in the countries where our group has already established itself in Southeast Asia," Mr Suphachai, chairman of the executive committee of True Corporation, the parent firm of True Move, told the Bangkok Post.

He declined to specify which countries feature in True Move's expansion plans.

"Our group likely refers to Ascend Money, the digital arm of Ascend Group, which is under the umbrella of Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group, the parent firm of True Corporation, and now operates in six countries: Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia."

Ascend Money provides e-payment services and microloans aimed at customers who are underserved by big financial services players.

True Coffee, the Bangkok-based coffee shop chain owned by True Corporation, has stores in Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.

"We're now strong enough to create an international business presence, thanks to our healthy local business operations and financial status, successful convergence theory, cost-effective strategy, and strong business partnership networks," said Mr Suphachai, who is also chief executive of CP Group.

"We plan to start our overseas business expansion plan by 2018 to drive revenue growth and take the company to the next level."

He said True Move will decide between merger, acquisition, strategic alliance or joint venture as it expands internationally.

True Move overtook Total Access Communication (DTAC) in the fourth quarter of 2016 for second in subscriber numbers in Thailand, which it attributed to its aggressive customer acquisition approach and strong marketing strategies.

As of December 2016, AIS had 41 million subscribers, followed by True Move with 24.53 million and DTAC 24.4 million.

But True Move still trailed DTAC in service revenue in the final quarter of last year, as DTAC reported 16 billion baht while True Move posted 15.56 billion.

Mr Suphachai said True Move wants to continue to lead the development and deployment of 5G mobile technologies in Thailand, as True Move was the first to launch commercial 3G and 4G wireless broadband services in the country.

He said the technical specifications for global 5G standards have yet to be finalised. 5G promises to bring massively increased data speeds with low latency.

Standards have also not been developed for 5G smartphones and devices to use 5G networks.

A full commercial roll-out for 5G is not expected until 2020 and early testing is only just beginning, said Mr Suphachai.

There are two schools of thought on how to introduce 5G: a service-led view that sees 5G as a consolidation of 2G, 3G, 4G, WiFi and other innovations providing far greater coverage and reliable service at all times; and a second view driven by step-up changes in data speeds and order of magnitude reductions in end-to-end latency.

He believes Thailand is likely to opt for 5G wireless technology by 2020 that uses mobile WiFi hotspots, rather than mass deployments of 5G infrastructure.

Multi-antenna technologies such as Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output (MIMO) are anticipated to play a key role in 5G systems, which are expected to be deployed starting in 2020.

MIMO promises speeds of up to eight to 10 times faster than 4G, paving the way for a new breed of mobile applications and experiences, said Mr Suphachai.

He said True Move is willing to participate in the new rounds of 5G spectrum licence auctions as it is eager to obtain as much mobile bandwidth spectrum as possible to accommodate the explosion of mobile data consumption.

However, its participation would depend on reserve prices and business conditions at the time of the auction, said Mr Suphachai.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission initially planned to auction 1800- and 850-megahertz spectrum licences in February 2018.

Auctions for the two spectrum ranges are expected to generate a combined 195 billion baht for the government, comprising 120 billion from the sale of 90MHz of bandwidth on the 1800MHz spectrum and 75 billion from 20MHz of bandwidth on the 850MHz spectrum.

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