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NEWS UPDATES 19 July 2010

AIS revamps business to welcome 3G

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Advanced Info Service, Thailand’s 's largest mobile operator, is overhauling its digital content business for the start of 3G wireless broadband services with a budget of US$10 million.

The company is also restructuring its management and marketing to become a digital content provider instead of a mobile service provider, according to the Bangkok Post

AIS has set up a wholly owned subsidiary, Mimo Technology Co, to handle the 3G content business and mobile software platforms, with 100 employees. Another new subsidiary, Advanced Wireless Network, will bid for a 3G licence and operate the service.

Prattana Leelapanang, vice-president for wireless business marketing, said AIS was spending $10 million to revamp its software and content delivery platforms to accommodate more advanced multimedia content and applications in the 3G era.

The restructuring of content-specific platforms will serve the more advanced functionality of smartphones and accommodate applications for all handsets including Google's Android, Nokia's Symbian OS, and Apple iPhone, BlackBerry and HTC phones.

AIS plans to focus on 3G content and applications in three areas: multimedia entertainment, cinema and video-based streaming, and information and location-based content.

The company plans to ally with branded publishing firms, music and data production houses, and advanced digital device manufacturers to co-produce affordable 3G content services, he added. Ninety percent of the current industry-wide wireless content comes from overseas. Mr. Prattana said 3G was expected to increase local mobile data usage volume by at least fivefold once 3G services are fully available next year.

Service charges for 3G would be equal to those for existing 2G data services but would be 45 times faster than GPRS, he said.

"3G network costs are five times cheaper than 2G equipment systems, thanks to the advantage of its high-bandwidth capacity," he said.

AIS aims for non-voice revenue to grow by 15% to 15 billion baht this year, or around 17 percent of total earnings.

The company reported a 30 percent increase in non-voice revenue in the first quarter, fuelled mainly by a doubling in GPRS demand thanks to increasing popularity of smartphones. The mobile non-voice market in Thailand is expected to be worth 30 billion baht this year. Mr. Prattana said AIS currently had 8 million data users out of a total 30 million subscribers. Of its data customers, up to 15 percent were smartphone users contributing 30 percent of non-voice revenue.

Average data usage per iPhone and Android-based handset user is 1-2 gigabytes per month, compared with 300 megabytes per BlackBerry user and 30 MB for users with normal handsets. 3G revenue in developed countries accounted for up to 40 percent of operators' total earnings, he added.

AIS shares (ADVANC) closed on Friday on the SET at 86.25 baht, down 75 satang, in trade worth 161.7 million baht.

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