Two thousand eighteen will be a critical year for dtac and for Thailand. Mobile connectivity will begin to visibly transform all of society—not just the lives of early adopters. It will create growth and opportunities, but also significant disruptions. These changes are not a couple years away, nor will they occur gradually. The pace of change is only going to get faster.
Rather than wait to be disrupted, dtac has chosen to drive digitalization. In 2017, we vastly increased the use of our digital channels, both for our customers and retailers. We embedded the use of machine learning in our marketing solutions. And we gave our customers radically innovative digital products such as dtac call and Go No Limit.
In 2018, we will continue to grow our digital leadership but also pursue a lean operator agenda. Cost reductions don’t just allow us to secure funds to invest in promising growth areas, they also represent an organizational shift. Our teams will be more effective and better focused on value creation.
Our financial performance is beginning to show the value our transformation can unlock. In 2017, we returned to growth and increased our margins. We were able to maintain high free cash flows due to strong cost control.
In addition to creating value, empowering all of society with internet connectivity remains at the core of our purpose. In that respect, the coming months will be our most critical ever. In September 2018, dtac’s concession with CAT will end. In response, dtac is securing more spectrum and strengthening our network capacity. To densify our 2.1GHz network grid, we have more than doubled our base towers’ roll-out speed compared to 2016 and added 4,000 new sites.
On the spectrum side, things are moving equally fast. NBTC gave the green light for our 2300 MHz deal with TOT and we are now awaiting NBTC’s signed agreement along with confirmation from the attorney general, before ramping up the necessary network upgrades. This represents fantastic progress for Thailand’s mobile internet infrastructure.
In the coming 1800MHz and 900MHz auctions process, we will actively participate in the industry consultations. dtac’s stance remains that these auctions should effectively allocate sufficient spectrum to keep up with consumers’ rapidly growing data needs. Ample and affordable spectrum is critical to the country’s digital economy and the government’s vision for Thailand 4.0.
In addition to developing Thailand’s digital infrastructure, dtac is committed to ensuring everyone can make the best of their mobile internet. Our anti-cyberbullying training in schools reached over 25,000 children last year to better equip them with the tools to stay safe online. And our SmartFarmer app is used by over 4,000 farmers, with a further 30 pilot projects using Internet of Things technology provided by dtac to make the most of their land. Our data privacy and security standards are equally high—and we predict Thai consumers will start taking a closer look at these issues within 2018.
Our commitments for 2018 are fivefold:
- We will grow our digital channels even more quickly.
- We will cement our brand’s unique value proposition.
- We will develop our employees’ skills as top digital talents.
- We will manage end of concession and secure a fantastic network experience for our data users.
- And we will continue to grow our revenue and increase our profitability thanks to strong cost control, adjusted, of course, for the one-time effects related to end of concession.
This will be a very special year and we have the utmost respect for the difficulty of the challenges that lie ahead. But we are also fully confident dtac will emerge stronger than ever.