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First ‘smart airport’ to be set up in Thailand

The Thai government is teaming up with a Chinese telecommunications juggernaut to bring 5G networking and services as a part of the nation’s ‘smart airport’ initiative, starting with Krabi airport as a pilot project.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) and the Department of Airports (DOA) have signed a 5G Smart Airport memorandum of understanding (MoU) for technical cooperation and services.

Under the terms of the MoU, 5G technology solutions will be developed and applied to Krabi airport first, before expanding to the 28 other airports overseen by the DoA throughout the country.

Additionally, the Thai subsidiary of the telecom is also in line to sign another MoU to provide free 5G tech support, solutions, and equipment that is worth 10 million baht (approximately US$322,800) to enable the smart airport project.

The NBTC Secretary-General stated that the installation of 5G infrastructure is expected to “start within a month”.

The telecom will provide additional innovations and services at the airport for free to ensure passengers’ safety in the new normal era after the Covid-19 outbreak, such as robots that can detect passenger density in airport areas, thermal scanners, and UV treatment equipment for passengers’ luggage.

The developments mark the first 5G smart airport project undertaken on a national scale in Southeast Asia. Before the coronavirus pandemic broke out across the globe, GlobalData was forecasting the Asia Pacific (APAC) region to be the global leader in 5G applications and usage by 2024, estimating 1.14 billion APAC users would account for around 65% of worldwide 5G subscriptions within the next four years.

As mobility and networking industry experts recently stated, only temporary delays are expected to 5G network rollouts this year.

Even so, Thailand has taken the lead in Southeast Asia by officially becoming the first nation in the area to have commercially available 5G networks in various parts of the country.

The two biggest telco operators in Thailand that are responsible for the national 5G coverage – Advanced Info Service (AIS) and True Move Universal Communication (TUC) – will also be supplying the 5G signal coverage at the airports, starting with Krabi International Airport.

The Secretary-General believes that the smart airport concept is necessary following the new operating procedures for travel and movement in heavily tourism-dependent Thailand and that the signing of this MoU will help “to improve the quality of telecommunication services and safety standards in Thai airports and NBTC is hopeful that it will help promote the travel of foreign investors and tourists to Thailand when all the government’s lockdown orders are lifted.”

The Deputy Transport Minister added that the deal was on par with the national digital transformation strategy, and believes 5G-powered solutions can provide real-time support and help drive public confidence in health and security when it comes to travel and airport operations in the country.

Air travel is slowly beginning to swing back into action again in Southeast Asia. The low-cost regional airline AirAsia announced optimism after last week selling 41,000 seats in one day.

It also launched its an ‘Unlimited Pass’ for the first time in Thailand, offering a limited number of tickets for only THB 2,999 (US$96.98) for unlimited travel across its domestic routes until the end of the year.

The Chief Executive of AirAsia Thailand stated that the COVID-19 situation has significantly impacted the economy and tourism sector, especially in terms of foreign tourist spending in the nation, which has yet to return to normal.

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