October 22, 2020

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Thailand must leverage digital connectivity in new normal

The COVID-19 pandemic has irreversibly impacted and changed the world as we know it. Social distancing has made us much more dependent on technology, and new health techniques highlight the power of 5G, cloud technology and artificial intelligence, according to the President of the Carrier Business Group of the Asia Pacific branch of a Chinese multinational technology company.

Overall, ICT has played an important role in battling COVID-19, and it will continue to factor in economic recovery in the new normal.

In some cases, proactive and cooperative initiatives have enabled governments and operators to aggressively build out telecom infrastructure before and during COVID-19, easily absorbing this increase in demand on infrastructure.

In other regions, complex decision processes have paralyzed digital infrastructure investment, leaving countries struggling to cope.

In a report by OpenVault, Broadband Insights, in the first quarter of 2020, social distancing practices led to an average broadband consumption increase of 47 percent to 402.5GB, from 273.5GB during the same time in 2019.

While most of this is attributable to an increase in online video consumption, the pandemic has given rise to new consumer behaviour that includes increased use of delivery apps, more frequent and immersive video conferencing, and greater dependence on e-Education and work-from-home solutions.

These systems have existed for years but the uptick in usage in the last few months has brought them to the forefront; it is believed that even post-pandemic, usage levels are expected to remain high.

Globally, several countries have moved forward with very aggressive policies to address critical voice and data communication during the pandemic.

For example, Ireland released a temporary extra radio spectrum to provide additional capacity, and allowed free upgrades to unlimited bandwidth, eliminated fair usage policies, and applied zero-rating to healthcare and education resource websites.

In the APAC region, the Cambodian government offered temporary 5G licenses for crucial services. Specifically, 5G healthcare enables healthcare professionals to conduct remote treatment of patients and consultation with experts around the world.

This agile policing enabled Cambodia ability to efficiently handle a major crisis while also protecting human lives and minimizing economic damage.

Thailand, which is striving to become the region’s digital technology leader, has also taken a very aggressive approach towards both mobile and fixed broadband development.

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.

Zooming out, the ASEAN region is predicted to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, economic entities in Asia.

Many countries are pushing hard to secure the leading position in digital transformation, and while the title is still for the taking, 5G will help all ASEAN nations move from predominantly 2C-focused mobile broadband business models to 2B.

This will be paramount for digital transformation in many vertical industries including healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing, logistics and more.

Proactive policies that accelerate the deployment and adoption of digital services are key to moving the economy ahead and ensuring continued reliable operation even in the face of adversity.

Thailand’s digital infrastructure of the future needs to be agile enough to accommodate new applications and behaviours as well as robust enough to serve as a reliable digital platform for the economy even when unpredictable situations arise.