eXtensions Diary

Bangkok Diary Thursday 13 November 2008: iPhone Speculation for Thailand


A brief report in the Thursday print edition of the Bangkok Post (Business Section) tells us that True Move, one of the three main telephone service suppliers in Thailand, with its customer base almost wholly in Bangkok and the central area, claims to have signed a deal with Apple to handle the iPhone, "within the next few months."

True, which is partly owned by the CP (Charoen Phokpand) Group, is the number three telephone service, with AIS (Advanced Info Service) and DTAC at one and two respectively. AIS, which was formerly owned by ousted Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra and is now part of Singapore's Temasek Holdings, is also said to be in talks with Apple; as is DTAC, part of Norway's Telenor.

Although the iPhone is not officially available in Thailand, it is on sale in a number of sources in Bangkok, most notably the Mahboonkrong shopping center, where it can be bought, unlocked, for about 25,000 baht (about US$715) which is the price that the Bangkok Post expects for the True Move iPhone. While I do not like to predict, this seems high in comparison with what can already be bought both in Thailand and in other Asian and South-east Asian markets, particularly as there are no details of user service plans.

It is suggested that AIS may be asked to commit to 400,000 iPhones within 3 years, while DTAC and True Move would commit to 300,00 each for the same period. The Post report tells us that the underground sales of iPhones are in the region of 100,000 per year currently.

Telephone companies here do not like to gamble, plus they have to deal with concessions issued either by the Telephone Organisation of Thailand (TOT) which traditionally controlled telephones inside Thailand, and the Communications Authority of Thailand (CAT) which was in charge of international communications and the Post Office, plus (in recent times) the main Internet gateway. The rollout of 3G services in particular has been slow with currently some small test areas in Bangkok and Chiang Mai (AIS) in the north. It is not expected that a fully functioning 3G will be up and running before March 2009. All three operators do have EDGE services.

As at this time, the Apple page showing iPhone "Coming Soon" countries, does not include Thailand (or other SE Asian countries: Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam).

When I checked, I was told, "Apple has no comment."


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