a day at dtac ChiefOpE:D

Why change is happening faster than ever according to dtac’s technology chief, Prathet Tankuranun

When you’re the head of the technology group and suddenly everyone is talking about digital transformation, of course, it can sound a bit silly. We’ve been digital for over 10 years! But digitalization, to me, refers to how dramatically the customer’s digital journey has changed in recent years. And how quickly it will continue to change. We are facing critical issues on privacy and data security, massive growth in data consumption, the need for connections that are not only fast but uninterrupted and gearing up for the internet of things. All that stuff is new.


Just take IoT [internet of things] to see how transformative these changes can be. How many SIMs are in your household? Just you? Or maybe you have kids? A tablet? That’s six SIMs max. Now put a SIM in your TV, your refrigerator, your air-con, your washing machine, et cetera. A single person might have more SIMs tomorrow than a family of four has today.

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 “A single person might have more SIMs tomorrow than a family of four has today.”


The incredible domination of the internet also opens up an unprecedented number of risks. In the past couple weeks there have been very real and very serious cases. Data got stolen in Malaysia from telco operators. In Thailand, one of our competitors was hit, too. These risks have completely reshaped how we work: who has access to what, what is password protected, what our retailers or vendors can access. And due to Telenor’s investment in dtac, we follow European regulations, which are getting increasingly strict to better protect consumers. All this has a deep impact on how we design and upgrade our systems. It’s really tangible to my team, even though it’s invisible to those on the outside.


Some change is more readily visible for our customers and employees, such as the shift from prepaid to postpaid or from physical to online. Before we had OK’ish applications. We had them so we could say we have them. But we never focused on them. What mattered was having a point of sale within 2km of just about anyone in the country.

That focus is fading and shifting to online: improving the website and making applications for customers, retailers or even ourselves. Most of the development is done by the technology group, working with the digital group if it’s customer facing, or with sales if it’s for retailers. Working in a silo is becoming rarer. And our customers get way better digital services as a result.

prathet infographics3

“Working in a silo is becoming rarer. And our customers get way better digital services as a result.”


As consumers become more digital, they are using ever-increasing amounts of data. This means we need to upgrade our networks to keep up with their needs. And we need to do it without increasing costs for customers.

To do that, we are doing what’s called virtualizing the core network. It replaces the boxes we used to have, and which can only do the one thing they were built for, with hardware that can do anything depending on the software it runs. It means we can roll out new products for clients much faster, such as our Wi-Fi calling function, which allows you to receive calls on your phone while traveling abroad, for free, as long as you’re connected to Wi-Fi.


The year ahead is a life-changing time for dtac. It really isn’t a normal year. More than 50 percent of our spectrum comes to an end. Everything that was built more than six years ago are concession assets that are operated jointly with CAT.


“The year ahead is a life-changing time for dtac. It really isn’t a normal year.”

In response, we are building 4,000 new towers this year. Usually, we build 2,000-2,500 towers. I can tell you this thing is well planned. We knew we would have to do this. We prepared ourselves and we prepared the vendors. I’m confident, but it’s still a colossal undertaking.

prathet infographics2


Customer-driven change is incredibly rapid. People expect new services quickly and frequently. It forces you to work using what’s called the agile method. Not only you have to collaborate with other departments but you have to quickly experiment, fail, switch direction, and then scale up when you hit upon something that works.

prathet infographics5

Those skills are new. So when we’re hiring, and we say we want “digital talent,” that doesn’t necessarily mean we want someone who can code or develop websites. What we want is people with analytical skills who understand the business and can dive into the data and twist it into different angles to unlock new opportunities. Those people are rare.

There’s still a core to our job that doesn’t follow this new agile model, though. The network itself is just too complex, too expensive, and too critical. So you have to distinguish between hiring super innovative and creative people to invent new tools for our customers, and running the network, which is very systematic.

This is the new way of dtac. Things are changing, the environment is changing, and you have to change as well or you won’t survive. I changed too. I used to be old school. We all used to be in TG. The secret to transformation is to be open, Be open to new ways of work. Be open to the new technologies that are coming. You have to be ready to pick up new skills.

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