AIS reignites rate war in bid for new subscribers
Advanced Info Service Plc (AIS) yesterday ignited a rate war to woo new mobile-phone subscribers, following a possible slowdown in its customer growth due to the hostile operating environment.
"It's an unusual situation, so we have to fight with short- and long-term plans. We can't wait any longer for the situation to calm down," said Chamnarn Maytaprechakul, AIS's new executive vice president for marketing.
The market leader and subsidiary of Shin Corp Plc is facing harsher conditions, including a public backlash over the Shin-Temasek deal, intense competition, a slowing economy and political uncertainty.
Vice president Titipong Khiewpaisal said net new subscribers numbered about 150,000 last December and 104,000 in January.
An AIS executive source said the company signed up around 50,000 net new subscribers last month, and the pace this month was expected to be about the same.
Titipong declined to reveal the net new subscriber figure for last month but admitted that AIS would be hurt by the political mood.
Last week, CEO Somprasong Boonyachai said subscriber intake this quarter will likely fall below the 332,900 of last year's first quarter, considering that opponents of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra have been campaigning for a public boycott of services
provided by Shin and Singapore's state investment arm, Temasek Holdings.
The Shinawatra and Damapong families sold their 49.6-per-cent stake in Shin to Temasek in January. The deal sparked concern among activist groups over the foreign dominance of satellite and free-television subsidiaries, which they regard as national assets.
AIS's new prepaid phone programme charges Bt1 for the first minute and 25 satang for each additional minute from 6am to 6pm; and Bt3 for the first minute and 25 satang from 6pm to 6am. The promotion will last for one month. A new subscription also comes with a call bonus of Bt50 per month for six months.
Titipong said the latest prepaid package targeted 150,000 new users.
The new post-paid promotion offers three levels of monthly fees: Bt499, Bt799 or Bt999.
The first package allows calling free of usage charges from 6am to 6pm every day. Calls outside of that period will be charged at Bt5 for the first minute and Bt1 for each minute thereafter.
The second option allows free calling from 6am to 6pm during weekdays plus all weekend. Other calls cost Bt4 for the first minute and Bt1 for each subsequent minute.
The Bt999 rate allows free calls from 6am to 6pm from Monday to Friday. Standard rates are Bt3 for the first minute and Bt1 for each following minute outside of that time frame.
The three post-paid packages will run for six months.
"More new campaigns will come after this," said Chamnarn.
AIS has targeted 1.2 million new subscribers by the end of the year on top of the more than 16.5 million it has now.
AIS executives also criticised rival Total Access Communication (DTAC) for recently offering DTAC SIM cards free of charge at AIS headquarters.
"I'm quite unhappy about this. They've stomped on us while we're in trouble," said Chamnarn.
DTAC chief commercial officer Thana Thienachariya denied AIS's claim.
He said DTAC would launch a series of marketing campaigns next month to counteract AIS's new offering.
"AIS's new tariffs signify that the mobile-phone service industry will soon see all cellular operators competing with one another at full force," said Thana.
Earlier, DTAC had said it was trying to refrain from launching any heavy marketing campaigns against its rival while the political turmoil lasted, in order to avoid being labelled an opportunist.