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Thai operators begin WCDMA network rollouts... at last

WCDMA/HSPA connections to surpass 12M by 2012; accounting for 14% of total

It is going to be fascinating to follow the adoption of high- speed services in Thailand. How are all four operators going to differentiate their offers? How are they going to manage the migration from GSM to WCDMA in a market that is rapidly approaching 100% penetration? In a market that is 90% prepaid, WCDMA and HSPA compatible devices will probably still range in mid to high price tiers next year at launch, and adoption of USB dongles will depend on consumer experience, international roaming pricing and effective download speeds. As a comparison, Telstra in Australia is one of the most pro-active mobile operators to recently migrate its installed base to WCDMA HSPA. At the end of June 2008, Telstra was reporting that ‘Wireless Broadband’ connections, USB dongles and data cards, had reached 588,000 since launch in 2006, growing at an average of 20,000 a month. If only moderate growth is possible in a developed market such as Australia - despite nationwide network coverage - then many of the predictions by the Thai operators seem overly optimistic. TOT, for example, is targeting 4 million high-speed connections in five years but currently only has 1% of the market and will be competing against three well-established operators. The large proportion of prepaid connections will not facilitate fast adoption and only a limited number of multimedia devices at launch will provide rich Internet-based consumer experience at an affordable price for prepaid users.

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