Well, it official. The iPhone 3G is legitimately coming to Thailand. In a recent interview, I had stated that I had some doubts that the iPhone would come to Thailand so soon, citing that they did not have any confirmed deals for content, which is what really rakes in the money in the whole iPhone money machine. But soon after that interview, there were some events which hinted towards a Thailand launch. It now looks like the baby brother in Thailand’s trio of major phone operators, True Move, who is often over looked or forgotten, has sealed the deal with Apple. Commenting on the question of what happened to their rumored deal, AIS has stated that the deal with TrueMove is nonexclusive, leaving the door open for speculation that AIS is still in negotiations with Apple.
Why TrueMove ?
Despite being years ahead with its coverage area and 3G deployment, why did AIS drop the ball with this deal, coming in second to True Move? Will Dtac get theirs before AIS concludes their deal? Quite possibly. The reason True Move trumped the number one and number two carriers is not because of technological advantage in 3G but because TrueMove has become a media conglomerate over the past few years. Scooping up UBC after Shin Corp was sold off by former PM Thaksin Shinawatra to Themasek of Singapore, True Corp was able to corner the Thai pay TV market. This with their abundant media distribution agreement along side their home grown talent from the Academy Fantasia program (a cross between Big Brother and American Idol), there is no lack of content to fill up the iPhone and possibly even a local iTunes store.
Having control over content and delivery method has put True Corp, and subsidiary True Move, as THE ideal partner for Apple, who also have a history of being infamously controlling over content and DRM. It is worth noting that True Corporation Limited is a subsidiary of CP, by far Thailand’s biggest agricultural producer, one of Thailand’s biggest companies. CP also happen to hold the rights to Thailand’s 7-11 convenience store chain. With distribution channels and physical stores which cover nearly every square inch of Thailand, who better to partner with for getting out a product to the masses, provide infrastructure and content delivery channel and have a chain of stores that can collect on payments easily through their Counter Service payment kiosks. It also doesn’t hurt to be among the top few companies to have wifi hotspots scattered over most of the country and at major malls and other public gathering centers.
iPhone 3G on EDGE
Because there are no public 3G networks aside from AIS’ 900MHz service in Chiang Mai, the iPhone which runs the 2100MHz 3G, will not show blistering speeds or 3G content as it will be limited to an EDGE data service. However, True Move currently have a plethora of content on their current EDGE network. Services from streaming live TV, radio, music, movie and most any type of service you come to expect from a mobile carrier is currently available and fine tuned for their EDGE network.
Pricing & Communicability
It is yet to be disclosed on what the price will be for the iPhone 3G, but currently, among all the major carriers, only True Move have both subsidized and non-subsidized phones in their catalog. However, because Thai law prohibits any carrier from ‘locking down’ phones to their own network, it is likely that the iPhone will enter Thailand under the same terms and conditions as any other phone would, unlocked. However, by subsidizing the price of the iPhone, True Move can assure a minimal stream of revenue on contracts that people will be willing to sign, despite the high possibility of these users using the iPhone on other networks and maintaining their True Move contract to the minimal contracted time period. But personally, I would not worry too much as people are willing to be extorted now with the ridiculous prices MBK and other phone shops are asking, just to own these phones.
Indeed the big boys were blind sided and so was yours truly. However, don’t count out AIS and Dtac yet as a signed deal does not mean that they will have the 3G out in store before everyone else.