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Thailand to strengthen broadband backbone

Thailand's government is investing heavily in communications infrastructure to make the country’s broadband fit for the digital age

The Thai government plans to invest THB38bn ($1.1bn) to strengthen its broadband backbone, extending access across Thailand and increasing data speeds by more than 400%.

According to a report by the Oxford Business Group, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) plans to install high-speed broadband with minimum speeds of 30Mbps across Thailand’s 70,000 villages. The goal is to have full national coverage by next year.

Thailand ranks eighth in Asia and 52nd worldwide for its average broadband internet speed, according Ookla, a US network diagnostics company.

As well as broadband, the government is working to expand 4G services, with spectrum auctions for the 900MHz and 1.8GHz bands conducted late last year.

The 4G services are expected to boost the Thai economy by an estimated THB1trn ($28bn) over the next five years, according to a study by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

The MICT also announced plans to build 10,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in rural areas to help people connect to the internet.

A digital economy plan was first announced in February 2015, with the goals of making Thailand a technology-based society, with more public services and e-commerce becoming available online.

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The Thai prime minister views a digital economy as an opportunity to promote lifelong learning and a vehicle for economic growth for Thai entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises.

“The 20-year digital economy plan focuses on building a nationwide advanced broadband network, promoting a digital technology-based economy and society, creating public e-services, developing human resources competent in the digital economy and society, and creating public confidence in the use of digital technology,” said Weeradej Panichwisai, research manager in IDC’s Asia-Pacific Telecommunications Group.

He said the plan has four phases:

  • building digital infrastructure
  • entering the digital economy and society
  • full digitisation of the country
  • using digital technology to drive Thailand towards being a developed country

With this in mind, the Thai government plans to build broadband fixed-line and wireless access points across the country, double the capacity of the submarine cable network, and promote the opening of at least 10,000 small and medium-sized online shops, said Panichwisai.

He added: “To achieve this plan, an investment of up to THB50bn is needed. The government has allocated THB20bn to build a national broadband infrastructure to provide affordable broadband internet access to 79,000 villages nationwide. Building a broadband network will cost THB15bn and THB5bn for an international internet gateway.”

However, there have been delays, Panichwisai said. “Little concrete progress has been seen since this plan was announced. One year on, almost nothing has happened. A cabinet reshuffle has delayed the process.”

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