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Prepping 5G for enterprise use in Thailand

Thailand is well into its first phase of 5G development, focusing on using the technology for enterprise solutions in Bangkok and the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC). The country will still need time before consumers adopt the technology across large areas because of the high price of 5G-compatible smartphones, the Head of the Thailand branch of a Finnish multinational telecommunication, information technology, and consumer electronics company stated.

The firm is one of three companies supplying the technology to build the world’s 5G infrastructure, providing equipment to all three of Thailand’s leading telecoms to build their 5G networks. The company has been working with telecom operators to get 5G deployed, the Head noted.

The focus of 5G development is definitely in Bangkok and the EEC, which is a great place to try out these new technologies. Government subsidies have attracted a lot of companies and industry. This year the company announced a deal with the nation’s second-largest operator by subscribers, to deploy IP/MPLS solutions that will enable network slicing in the EEC. Another deal was made with Thailand’s third-largest telecom, to deploy 5G solutions over the next year.

The firm is working with all three major operators and major enterprises, as well as partnering with the government. Recently the Minister of digital economy and society (DES) also met with the firm’s Thailand Head to discuss telecommunications surrounding large upcoming government projects such as the U-tapao airport and how state enterprises like the Metropolitan Electricity Authority can use 5G to implement smart grids.

The Thai government is very important in the telecommunications space because it sets the direction on frequency and tariffs with the operators, and drives specific industries. A good working relationship with the government and the firm has enabled various solutions to roll out that has helped the overall economy.

By 2025, some 30% of mobile traffic in Thailand will go through 5G networks, according to a study by AT Kearny, compared with 23% in all of Asia-Pacific. While Thailand’s roll-out of 5G preceded most Southeast Asian countries, it still lags Singapore and Vietnam.

In February, Thailand’s telecom regulator auctioned off the 700-megahertz, 2600MHz and 26-gigahertz ranges to be used for 5G, raising over TBH1 billion, and beginning the nationwide roll-out of the new telecom network.

The rollout of 5G is necessary as the nation’s digital content industry is expected to soar. OpenGov Asia recently reported that Thailand’s digital content industry will likely surpass THB30 billion in value this year, driven by the rise in demand as users spend more time online in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The President of the Digital Content Association of Thailand stated that in the pre-COVID period, Thailand’s digital content industry grew at least 10% a year, with the latest survey showing it was valued at THB25 billion in 2017. However, it’s expected to grow by over THB30 billion in 2020 despite the pandemic, as demand for digital content has surged, particularly in the entertainment segment, due to the longer time spent online in the new normal.

To stimulate the 5G development and alleviate some of the investment required for operators, the Thai government has introduced flexible payment terms that allow 700 MHz and 2600 MHz licenses to be paid over ten years. In addition to long-term planning well underway, Thailand has also proactively accommodated the needs of users dealing with social distancing and financial uncertainty with additional support for users including providing upgrades of FTTH services to 100Mbps and xDSL services to maximum capacity.

Policies like this have allowed the country to easily accommodate the change in digital dynamics brought on by COVID-19 and these early investments will also better position the economy for faster recovery post-pandemic.

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