Thailand’s AIS Negotiating with Apple for iPhone

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Thailand’s Advanced Info Service (AIS) announced today that it is negotiating with Apple for the right to carry the iPhone on its network. Apple plans to expand the iPhone franchise to Asian countries this year. The popular handset is currently available in the United States and large European countries.

“We are negotiating on details, including a revenue sharing standard. Apple needs a local operator to promote iPhone,” Prattana Leelapanang, assistant vice president for AIS’s wireless business marketing, told Reuters.

This news comes after last week’s setback in China. The world’s largest cellular operator, China Mobile, stopped negotiations with Apple for the iPhone. Revenue-sharing percentages became an issue that broke down the talks. It is believed that Apple still wants to sell the iPhone in China and it may talk with China Unicom now that China Mobile isn’t interested in a deal with Apple.

Apple is currently in talks with NTT DoCoMo and Softband to bring the iPhone to Japan. Sources from both phone companies say that revenue-sharing is a hotly contested issue. It seems as though Apple is driving a hard bargain with whatever carrier it negotiates with.

AIS’s chief marketing officer Sanchai Thiewprasertkul thinks Apple may have to alter its business model if the iPhone is to come to Thailand. Apple has been asking operators to bundle iPhones with postpaid plans and share revenue with the service providers. According to Mr. Sanchai this model may not work in Thailand.

”Given our one baht a minute of airtime, it would not make sense and would be impossible for us to share revenue with Apple,” he said, adding that more than 90% of mobile-phone users are prepaid.

One Thai baht is worth about 3 cents so it does seem ludicrous for Apple to ask for a percentage. But Apple doesn’t want to divert from its business model for the iPhone. It would make negotiations in countries like China and Japan more difficult if a Thai mobile carrier were given a non-revenue-sharing deal.

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