In this new analysis, Opensignal has compared the experience of our smartphone users on Thailand’s operators depending on the primary 5G band to which they connect, in December 2022 and March 2023 — before and after the completion of the DTAC and TrueMove H merger.
AIS users see the highest average amount of spectrum used for 5G connectivity of 42.7MHz in March 2023, which results in the fastest download speeds. However, while our DTAC users observed very low 5G speeds in December 2022, compared to the other two Thai operators, this changed in March 2023 — around the time of the merger. We saw a significant boost in experience at the time users started to access the 2.6GHz 5G band.
Mobile operators in Thailand mainly use two spectrum bands for 5G — band n28 (700MHz) and band n41 (2.6GHz). The former provides wider coverage, but the latter ensures higher capacity — and, as a result, better throughput and faster speeds for mobile users.
There are substantial differences in spectrum holdings across the three main Thai operators. While AIS and TrueMove H have licenced 100MHz and 90MHz in the 2.6GHz band, respectively, DTAC did not secure any frequencies in this band during the 2020 spectrum auction — and, as a result, had to deploy 5G only in the 700MHz band. As we observed in December 2022 and in the latest Thailand Mobile Network Experience report, our users on this network struggled with much slower average 5G download speeds than their peers connecting on AIS or TrueMove H’s networks, around the 30Mbps mark.
However, the situation changed in March 2023, at the time of the completion of the merger between DTAC and TrueMove H. While the companies have yet to fully consolidate under the new True Corp brand, and network integration work continues, we have already observed 5G readings for DTAC users on the 2.6GHz band, part of which is currently licenced to TrueMove — with 5G Download Speed clocking in at 105.7Mbps, more than three times faster than on the 700MHz band. As a result, DTAC’s average overall 5G download increased 2.8 times in March 2023, compared to December 2022 — from 29.6Mbps to 82.1Mbps. Interestingly, TrueMove H’s 5G download speeds on the 2.6GHz band dropped substantially from 102.5Mbps in December to 83.9Mbps in March 2023, which would be partially attributed to both companies sharing the 2.6GHz band now.
Opensignal looked at the evolution of the average spectrum bandwidth used by 5G connections on different Thai operators between December 2022 and March 2023. The average 5G spectrum bandwidth used on DTAC’s network jumped from 19.5MHz in December 2022 to 22.9MHz in March — increasing by 3.4MHz (17.1%) since December. There were no statistically significant changes in the average spectrum bandwidth used by our AIS and TrueMove H users’ 5G connections between these months.
Looking at how the proportions of 5G readings per band changed between December 2022 and March 2023 for different operators — there’s a strong shift on DTAC’s network from the 700MHz (n28) to the 2.6GHz (n41) band. While in December 2022 DTAC still relied entirely on the 700MHz band to provide 5G services — the 2.6GHz band rocketed to nearly 80% of 5G readings on DTAC in March 2023. We did not observe a substantial shift in the case of AIS and TrueMove H, as the proportions of 5G readings on the 700MHz band remained stable between December 2022 and March 2023 — around 8.6% and 15.2%, respectively.
Not only does the increased spectrum bandwidth contribute to faster 5G download speeds, but also improves the quality of other mobile services. Opensignal analyzed 5G Video Experience scores for Thailand’s operators depending on the primary 5G band used. We observed that our Thai 5G users generally enjoy a better video experience when they connect to 5G services over the 2.6GHz band than over the 700MHz band — with the differences in scores in March 2023 ranging from 2.9 and 3.2 points for DTAC and TrueMove H, respectively, to six points for AIS.
Similarly to 5G Download Speed, Opensignal saw no significant volume of 5G readings on the 2.6GHz band for DTAC in December 2022. However, in March 2023, we observed 5G connections using this band on DTAC’s network, with higher 5G Video Experience scores than on the 700MHz band.
The new operator has the potential to shake the mobile market
We’ve seen a newly merged operator change its market position in other countries. Our recent analysis of Italy's competitive landscape shows that Wind and Tre joining forces in 2020 led to the creation of a market player that was able to disrupt the Italian market and win several mobile network experience awards in Opensignal reports.
AIS has been dominating the awards tables in the Opensignal Thailand Mobile Network Experience reports published in May 2022 and November 2022, when it won all the 5G speed and experiential awards outright. With their infrastructure and spectrum licenses combined, along with their customer bases, the DTAC-TrueMove H merger gives the company new assets to help it to create a stronger challenge to AIS in the mobile network experience.