Increased investment in communications infrastructure aimed at achieving nationwide broadband coverage is under way in Thailand.
In mid-January the Thai government announced plans to invest BT38bn ($1.1bn) in strengthening the country’s broadband backbone, extending access across Thailand and increasing data speeds by more than 400%.
This comes alongside plans to expand 4G services, following spectrum auctions for the 900-MHz and 1.8-GHz bands conducted late last year.
Financing the fibre
According to government officials, BT20bn ($561.6m) of the funding will come directly from the Ministry of ICT (MICT), with the rest to be taken from the universal service obligation budget of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), a fund reserved for ensuring minimum nationwide ICT standards.
Of the MICT’s share, BT15bn ($425.6m) will be dedicated to improving rural connectivity, which has traditionally suffered from a lack of private sector investment.
The remaining BT5bn ($141.9m) will be earmarked to develop the government’s plan to channel internet traffic through a single gateway.
The move has already received criticism from groups concerned with undue state control of web traffic and the potential for government restrictions on foreign websites, news or information.
The first phase of the project is expected to begin in March, according to state officials, with the second phase to be inaugurated in 2017.
The MICT plans to source its funding from recent 4G spectrum auctions, which raised a record BT232.7bn ($6.6bn) through the sale of four licences in late 2015.However, media reports indicate a new 900-MHz auction could be called if one of the bid-winners, Jasmine International, is unable to secure funding for the sale. The telco has until March 21 to make its first payment.
Expanding rural access
Among the project’s goals is extending affordable high-speed broadband service to each of Thailand’s 70,000 villages, with a view to providing full national coverage by next year.
The newly announced programme also aims to improve connection quality and speed in the 27,000 small communities that already have fixed and wireless broadband access.
The plan aims to achieve speeds of at least 30 Mbps, up from 7.4 Mbps at present, as per data from Akamai Technologies, a US-based cloud services provider.
While Thailand currently ranks 6th of the 15 Asian countries surveyed in Akamai’s “State of the Internet 2015” report, if it achieves its target, it could outpace South Korea, which is first in the world, with average broadband speeds of 23.1 Mbps.
By the end of 2016, the initiative aims to add another 300 facilities to the MICT’s 2000 existing community-based ICT centres, which currently provide broadband internet to roughly half of the country’s villages.
The simultaneous drive to launch 4G services is expected to create significant carry-through benefits for the Thai economy through increased demand for technology, materials and equipment, with a recent report by the NBTC estimating that the scheme could add nearly BT1trn ($28.1bn) to GDP through to 2020.
While 4G services are already on offer on the 2.1-GHz band, subscribers remain largely concentrated in Bangkok.
According to Settapong Malisuwan, vice-chairman of the NBTC, the launch of 4G on the 1.8-GHz band could attract as many as 20m subscribers by the end of 2016.The NBTC report expects broader 4G services to generate an additional BT119bn ($3.4bn) in revenues for the telecoms sector through to 2020, as well as BT284bn ($8bn) worth of capital markets activity and financial investments.
A further BT109bn ($3.1bn) in mobile transactions, BT50.6bn ($1.4bn) in 4G usage, and more than BT170bn ($4.8bn) in revenues for the entertainment, education, social welfare and public health care sectors are also expected.
How the Rural-Urban Divide Plays Out on Digital Platforms
It is one thing for entrepreneurs, whether urban or rural, to create and operate an online store, as some digital platforms have made it relatively easy to manage an e-store – even by using just a smartphone.
Thailand’s internet economy to hit US$53 billion in 2025
New users in Southeast Asia are coming online at a blistering pace, adding 40M new Internet users this year alone compared to 100M between 2015 and 2019 and 70% of the region’s population is now online.
Southeast Asia’s Internet sectors continue to see strong growth, hitting $100 billion in 2020, and are on track to cross $300 billion by 2025 stated a report by Google, Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings and business consultants Bain & Co.(more…)
Subscribe via Email
Thailand’s Consumer Confidence Hits new Record Low in May
The University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC) has reported that Thailand's Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) for May fell...
The future of rail travel in Thailand
Hua Lamphong is, for many people, a beloved representation of rail travel in Thailand. However, there is a significant upgrade...
Thailand Calls for Lifting of Intellectual Property Protection on COVID-19 Vaccines
Thailand will push for COVID-19 vaccines to be removed from intellectual property protection lists, as per the Trade-Related Aspects of...
China’s new three-child policy highlights risks of aging across emerging Asia
Thailand's (Baa1 stable) total dependency ratio is set to jump nine percentage points to 51% by 2030 – a faster...
Thailand gains 1.2bn baht revenue from international film productions
During the four-month period, 31 production crews came to Thailand to shoot films, generating 1.212 billion baht revenue for Thailand....