The advantage of Thailand’s slow 3G adoption

Despite all the delay and frustrations, particularly for the public, analyst firm Frost & Sullivan has concluded that Thailand’s late adoption of 3G mobile technology will have its benefits… when eventually it is adopted of course.

Notes the company in a press release this week, which follows on research suggesting mobile data is set to grow massively in Southeast Asia (blogged here):

Operators in Thailand are learning that data services growth is fast replacing declining voice revenues. This realization has spurred aggressive push from the operator side to encourage take up of 2.5G services. As a result, operators have been anticipating the licensing and spectrum allocation for 3G in Thailand. With trials on existing networks conducted in 2009, operators have been readying networks and services for anticipated but delayed 2010/11 launches.

Once 3G takes off completely, Frost & Sullivan expects to see postpaid numbers in mobile connections swell against the currently popular pre-paid mobile connections. Especially since operators will attempt to increase customer retention as the market hits saturation.

As one of the last markets to commercialize mobile broadband services in the Asia Pacific region, there are many case studies that Thai operators can refer and relay on to successfully expand broadband usage in Thailand and to educate themselves about the pitfalls encountered by their neighbouring operators which they could avoid.

As one of the Southeast Asia’s two markets without 3G – lowly Myanmar being the other – demand for 3G in Thailand is already strong, suggesting there will be little delay between the introduction of 3G technology and a consumer and business stampede to make use of it.

Thai operators will indeed need to heed the lessons and anecdotes of neighbours and fellow operators, if services have issues on arrival there may yet be further consumer complaint and frustration.

With a number of operators set to bid for and receive 3G licenses competition will be hot which, when combined with new number portability options for Thai consumers, may see considerable rates of churn (mobile subscribers switching between operators) – particularly those on prepaid – as advanced 3G services establish themselves in the country.

The first step is the audience and issuing of licenses, however, as Thailand knows all too well.