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THB100.52 billion raised from Thai 5G licence auction

Thailand’s telecommunications regulator raised THB100.52 billion (US$3.2 billion) in 5G spectrum auctions, with operators snapping up 48 licences ahead of an expected commercial roll-out later this year.

Thailand’s top mobile network operator emerged as the biggest winner with 23 licences across all three spectrum bands in the auctions that lasted over five hours.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) said the next-generation wireless technology, with data, speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G networks, will help drive the country’s digital economy.

The country’s second and third-largest telecoms operators bagged 17 and two licences, respectively.

State-run firms CAT Telecom and TOT – which are to be merged to become National Telecom company (NT) – took part in spectrum auctions for the first time, winning six licences combined.

Companies winning the 700-MHz and 2600-MHz bands are required to pay the government over a 10-year period, in 10 and seven instalments respectively, according to the auction terms.

Thailand’s 5G technology is expected to help drive the economy by at least THB177 billion this year, accounting for 1.02 per cent of the country’s GDP, according to the Secretary-General of the NBTC, adding that he expected the value to nearly double in 2021.

Garnering interest 5G in Thailand

Interest in 5G wireless network technology has been on the rise in Thailand and around the world recently. This is a result of the array of related-use cases, Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies that capitalise on the ultra-fast internet.

Over the past two years, the Thai government has been working to give members of the public a better understanding of 5G technology and the benefits of its implementation via events and exhibitions.

Through these events, private and public players have the opportunity to meet and discuss collaborations the develop better technologies that can improve the lives of Thai citizens as well as grow the nation’s digital economy.

For example, the government set up the Digital Thailand Big Bang 2019. The event was jointly hosted by the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA) and the Digital Economy and Society Ministry.

5G network deployment in Thailand is expected to start this year, with experiments building up business use cases, while full competition in 5G business is expected by 2021.

Drones, remote-controlled vehicles, robotics, smart homes, smart factories, smart farms and smart healthcare are expected to be the first tier of 5G use cases, according to analysts.

Industry players have confirmed their full commitment to a 5G network in Thailand as it will go beyond connectivity and increase business productivity and use cases, giving consumers access to innovative public services.

The aim is to develop a clear frequency roadmap, particularly regarding frequency availability, from authorities, the Chief Executive of a major mobile phone operator company noted.

More recently, the Thailand branch of a networking and technology giant says it’s looking into the possibility of establishing an innovation centre in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) and running a 5G testbed in the country.

The innovation centre would have tech demos displayed for interested parties, according to the Managing Director for Thailand and Indochina. Whether the centre would be established depends on traffic from people and businesses in the EEC.

The company is exploring running a 5G testbed for the healthcare and manufacturing fields to capitalise on the Thailand 4.0 initiative amid economic challenges.

5G adoption in Thailand this year will be in the early stages, the Minister stated, with limited services scaling up in 2021 as more enterprises use the technology.

The tech firm is exploring a 5G-enabled router use case in moving vehicles, such as ambulances, mining and manufacturing in smart factories and universities.

WiFi6, which has throughput speed of 10-20 gigabit per second, will be rolled out this year. Its usage is expected to surpass WiFi5 by next year.

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