Thai AIS enjoys mobile data boom

Thai mobile operator AIS has reported impressive gains in profit and revenues thanks to surging demand for mobile data services, continued growth in its voice business and lower amortization costs.

For the second quarter of the year, AIS saw a 43% increase in net income, compared with the same period last year, to 8.7 billion baht ($277 million), while revenues grew by 12%, to 26.7 billion baht.

AIS has been busy investing in 3G technology, using its existing 900MHz frequencies, and subscribers have reacted positively. Non-voice revenues soared 35%, to 6.3 billion baht, as growing smart device usage and interest in social networking services drove average revenue per user (ARPU) for postpaid customers up 5% to 673 baht per month.

The Thai operator says that 14% of its customers are now using smart devices, compared with 12% this time last year, with 10.9 million customers now using data services, next to 10.5 million in the second quarter of 2011.

AIS is still expanding the coverage area of its 3G-900MHz network and claims to have deployed 3,500 base stations in 17 Thai cities.

The operator also reported a 6.4% increase in its voice revenues, to 18.5 billion baht, despite tough competition in Thailand’s mobile voice market. It attributed its gains to its widespread coverage and having a better-quality network than its rivals.

AIS’s margin on earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) fell slightly to 43.9%, from 44.9% in the second quarter of 2011, due to a lower handset sales margin and higher network-related expenses.

The operator benefited, however, from a fall in amortization charges related to its existing network. Costs fell by 14%, compared with the second quarter of 2011, to 3.7 billion baht.

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