The broadband connectivity landscape in Thailand is being shaken up by the acquisition of Triple T Broadband (3BB) by Advanced Info Service (AIS). This ABI Insight discusses the growing opportunity that AIS may capitalize on, the conditions that guard the premises of its purchase, and its implication for other players in the market and consumers.
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AIS Has Achieved 46% Market Share in the Fiber Broadband Market in Thailand
Advanced Info Service (AIS) has actively progressed toward diversifying its business in Thailand. Fiber has been a key growth driver in 2023 for AIS’ broadband business. In November 2023, the Communication Service Provider (CSP) acquired Triple T Broadband (3BB). This acquisition will position AIS and 3BB as having 46% market share in the Fiber Broadband (FBB) market in Thailand, up from AIS’ 20% market share previously. This will mean that AIS has the majority market share in the country, overtaking True’s own fiber business. Furthermore, the new broadband business will have the widest coverage in the country, spanning 124,000 Square Kilometers (km2). AIS should also benefit from having a superior network with enhanced connectivity services, consequently enabling product innovation and downstream market opportunities.
Don't Fret, Competition Remains: The Acquisition Comes with Set Conditions
According to AIS’ 3Q 2023 Quarterly Report, AIS has begun to target three different portfolios with its new FBB business strategy: home fiber and broadband TV, entertainment and gaming, and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). The company has begun to offer new and lower-cost fiber plans at attractive prices as low as THB899 (~US$25.98) per month for high-value home fiber, THB799 (~US$23.08) for gaming-capable packages, and THB690 (~US$ 19.94) for SME startups and value-based users. Though the impact of the acquisition has yet to be reflected in AIS’ 4Q 2023 Quarterly Report, AIS is projected to achieve more than 60% broadband penetration by the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2024, in addition to a growing subscriber base of more than 5 million in FY 2024, up from 49% broadband penetration and a 2.4 million subscriber base in 2023, respectively. Additionally, AIS has forecast an estimated 5% to 8% increase in revenue.
The nature of AIS’ acquisition of 3BB includes a 19% stake in Jasmine Broadband Internet Infrastructure Fund (JASIF), which manages 3BB’s fiber optic infrastructure. AIS will fulfill 3BB’s existing contractual obligations with JASIF until 2038 and pay JASIF to operate and maintain 3BB’s preexisting broadband network. Moreover, AIS’ takeover of the majority of the market comes with certain requirements as set out by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC). These conditions mandate that AIS maintains its pre-merger FBB price packages for 5 years and permits smaller FBB competitors to enter the market by leasing out AIS’ network to them. AIS is also required to invest at least THB10 billion (~US$ 286 million) to extend connectivity to underserved areas of the country, though there was no specific timeline for this condition. Nevertheless, AIS has announced plans to cover 13.3 million households with its expanded broadband business, an increase from AIS Fiber’s original coverage of 8.8 million households.
AIS Now Bears the Responsibility of Reducing the Digital Divide in Thailand
From AIS’ perspective, its aggressive advancements in the country’s broadband market could be to compensate for the merger of True and dtac, which was completed in March 2023. As of 3Q 2023, True Mobile has the largest 5G customer base in Thailand with 9.4 million 5G subscribers, in comparison to AIS’ 8.5 million 5G subscribers. Thus, AIS’ diversification in other business segments other than within mobile to remain competitive in the wider connectivity market is a strategic move for the company. What is the potential impact of AIS’ big break in the FBB market on True Corporation, the second largest player in the FBB market in Thailand? As of the end of FY 2022, True’s broadband business had 4.97 million subscribers, with revenue of THB2.25 billion (~US$64.9 million). A significant reality is the company’s declining Average Revenue per User (APRU), as the company has dropped prices to maintain market share. True released new modems, and flexible plans to enable customers to set their preferred Internet speeds according to their potential usage profile (i.e., gaming, working/learning and other forms of entertainment). Should True want to retain its competitive edge in the FBB market moving forward, the company will need to continue innovating. Meanwhile, the company’s FBB subscriber base for FY 2023 has yet to be reported, though ABI Research anticipates that the impact on True will likely be more significant in FY 2024 than FY 2023, given that the completion of the merger was only in November 2023. ABI Research anticipates that AIS’ expanded broadband business will trickle down positively to customers and end users. With a wider range of products to select from, in addition to more affordable and attractive broadband services, consumers will be presented with more competitive rates overall for fixed broadband plans.
Considering that AIS now has a stronger competitive stance in the FBB market, the company bears a greater responsibility to ensure that wider regions and geographies are provided connectivity. According to ABI Research’s Southeast Asia Economic, Societal & Industrial Trends: 2023 report (PT-2776), Thailand has a FBB penetration rate of just 17 FBB subscriptions per 100 people. Furthermore, 15% of the population is not connected to the Internet in any capacity—neither fixed nor wireless. Moving forward, AIS should be expected to work to expand into rural, underserved areas to expand its coverage. 5G or even 4G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) services would be an effective extension of fiber-optic coverage in the Thai market. With wider coverage using JASIF’s infrastructure, the extension of AIS’ broadband network should be relatively seamless and new services should be quick to implement as well. Nevertheless, AIS will be facing new horizons and challenges with its newly enlarged broadband business and the Thai people and its businesses will have greater expectations of AIS.