True Corporation expects revenue from its broadband internet business to surge to a record high of 40% this year, driven by lower costs of devices and higher connection speeds.
The company also plans to apply for a WiMax testing licence from the National Telecommunications Commission as soon as it is available, with a commercial service scheduled for next year. The move is to expand its broadband internet services to parts of rural areas that its network does not cover.
Non Ingkutanon, deputy director for wireline broadband services, said True Internet, the group's internet service provider, expected its revenue to jump 40% from four billion baht last year. Revenue from WiFi, in particular, would double to 100 million baht this year.
It expects the number of its high-speed internet users to reach 700,000, plus 60,000 WiFi customers by the end of this year.
As of December 2006, True had 450,000 broadband subscribers plus 20,000 WiFi customers. The company currently has 500,000 broadband customers and 40,000 WiFi users.
Mr Non said the country's broadband penetration was projected at one million subscribers this year, 20% of whom would be WiFi customers.
He said that WiFi penetration in Thailand had increased by more than 300% in 2006, fuelled by global mobility technology and the changing lifestyle of young-generation people.
True now has 200,000 customers using its convergence services _ TrueVisions pay-TV, True Move's mobile phones, True Internet's broadband internet and WiFi and True IPTV's internet-protocol television.
Mr Non acknowledged that the key obstacles to the WiFi growth in Thailand were costly devices, a lack of content variety and low speeds compared to other countries that now offer 10-100 megabits per second (Mbps).
However, he said that True had gradually cut its tariff rate from 180 baht per hour to 150 baht. Alternatively, it offers customers another monthly package for 250 baht in exchange for unlimited WiFi access. It has also upgraded the speed of the service from 512 kilobits per second to 1 Mbps.
Mr Non said True was on the verge of spending 150 million baht on expanding its WiFi network to 4,100 hotspots in 50 provinces, with a total capacity to accommodate more than 100,000 users. Eighty percent of the network coverage is in Bangkok.
True yesterday joined hands with Central Pattana Plc to install WiFi hotspots at all 10 Central shopping centres.
Nattakit Tangpoonsinthana, executive vice-president for marketing of Central Pattana, said the company was working with True to provide tailor-made online shopping information offerings.TRUE shares closed yesterday on the SET at 7.40 baht, down 15 satang, in trade worth 347.94 million baht.