Advanced Info Service (AIS), Thailand’s largest mobile operator, said yesterday it plans to spend THB60 billion (US$1.7 billion) building out its 3G network over the next three years, reports Reuters. Pornrat Janjarassakul, head of corporate planning and investor relations at the operator, told reporters that AIS expects to receive its long-awaited 3G license in the 2.1GHz band by the third quarter of the year and would take a further six months to launch services. “If we get a 3G licence, we will invest about THB20 billion a year for three years to have nationwide coverage,” Janjarassakul said. He added that AIS could borrow between THB3 billion and THB5 billion a year to boost its cash flow, noting it had a healthy debt-to-equity ratio of 0.25 at the end of 2008.
AIS already operates two 3G networks in Thailand, one in a Bangkok shopping centre and one in the northern province of Chiang Mai. Both deployments are in the 900MHz band and are Thailand’s only 3G networks to date while operators wait for licenses in 2.1GHz, the band typically used for 3G. The new licenses are seen as vital for local operators for generating new revenue in a market that is rapidly approaching saturation.