There's no doubt that True Move stole a major march on its competition when it took the iPhone exclusively when the device first arrived on Thai shores legitimately in January 2009.
Back then, True Move's chief executive Supachai Chearavanont described the response to launching the iPhone 3G as "beyond expectation", as more than 5,000 waiting customers marked the beginning of Thailand's obsession with the iPhone.
Fast forward to today, where the exclusivity is over and all the major telcos in the country offer the latest iPhone 4 (when it is in stock), True--the country's third largest operator--is looking to the wireless future as the next springboard to further develop and grow.
The operator stole a march on its rivals having agreed to a deal with state-owned CAT (more details here in a piece I wrote for the Asian Correspondent) that will see True upgrade CAT's network to 3G-HSPA with exclusive usage, sidestepping the ongoing and much-maligned and delayed 3G license auction.
There is, of course, considerable more to the spectrum issue but, essentially, True has come away from its deal handsomely avoiding the need to enter the public auction for use of the TOT--the other state run operator--network, a bidding saga which predictably turned rather sour.
With the wheels in motion for 3G, True has bolstered its existing Wi-Fi hotspot coverage--the nearest thing to 3G in the country right now--after investing to double its speed in the wake of increased hotspot competition from its rivals. It has also begun raising funds, through the issuance of 6.73 billion new shares via a rights issue, to fund its loan repayments and generate the investment required for 3G.
The company revealed to the Bangkok Post that it is working to increase its mobile Internet subscriber number to 550,000 (up 130 percent) of which 200,000 are expected to be Wi-Fi customers, though it is not clear how many will subscribe to both.
With 10 million smartphones predicted to be in use this year in Thailand, that would be an impressive number of users if all goes to plan for True.
Given that things rarely run smoothly for the telecom industry in Thailand...anything could happen...but few would bet against True continuing its impressive recent strategy and reaping the benefits of arriving first on the 3G scene in Thailand.