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Thailand: 5G adding $41 billion in revenue to the economy

5G is being heralded as a disruption in the technology space, focusing on true digital inclusion by facilitating faster speed in internet connections, powered by low latency and power consumption. For consumers and businesses alike, the opportunities and potential is enormous. Tipping into this potential, Thailand is coming up as a frontrunner in the 5G race, not only among ASEAN countries, but also as a name globally. Research shows that such rapid adoption of 5G across businesses has the potential of adding $41 billion in revenue to the economy. Furthermore, a 5.5x GDP push can be expected from 5G tech-supported businesses by 2035. Through this article, we will navigate through the various aspects of 5G adoption in Thailand, the industry impact, challenges and way forward.

Santanu Ganguly
Chief Executive Officer
StrategINK

5G in Thailand: Current Scenario

While the focus on adoption of 5G started in early 2020, after the country’s 5G auction, Thailand’s focus on fast connectivity and internet has been on the radar for a few years now. Here’s a quick snapshot of the current standing of 5G in Thailand:

  • Deployed free broadband internet access for 74,987 villages, and has boosted the capacity of submarine cables to drive Thailand to be a digital center in ASEAN
  • One of the first markets to launch 5G in the Asia Pacific region
  • Supported by advanced infrastructure and a customer base of 3 million 5G subscribers

Despite being in the initial stages of 5G adoption, Thailand has shown immense potential for 5G deployment. In the recently conducted Thailand 5G Summit 2022, the Thailand 5G Alliance was launched to promote 5G as the country’s key digital infrastructure to create a better society with 5G technology application. The summit acted as a platform for the country to showcase how Thailand is ready for 5G adoption with a well equipped telecom infrastructure to support digital innovation in the field.

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5G growth in Thailand: Reflections and Prospects

The current adoption figures and the commitment of the country leaders, businesses and consumers looks optimistic for 5G growth in Thailand. However, from a future perspective, there are multiple other trends and predictions that add greater noise to Thailand becoming a global 5G leader:

  • 50% of mobile subscribers are expected to have access to the fifth-generation service by 2027
  • 130,000 jobs to be generated by 5G tech ecosystem by 2030
  • 30% increase in production efficiency and reduction in operational costs from 5G expected for entrepreneurs
  • 10% increase in Thailand’s GDP by 2035 with 5G

Action Plan for Promoting the Adoption of 5G Technology in Thailand Phase 1

To facilitate the adoption of and innovation in 5G technology, the Thai Government launched the Action Plan for Promoting the Adoption of 5G Technology in Thailand Phase 1 aimed at utilizing 5G capabilities for social and economic development in the country. The seven year plan (2021-2027), has two developmental milestones for 2-year goals (5G inclusion) and 5 year goals (5G transformation). Some of the key goals and indicators for the action plan are:

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  • 98% of the population to be covered by 5G network
  • 6.6% increase in GDP with the adoption of 5G technology in the vertical industries
  • 2.2% or 10,000 SMEs utilizing 5G technology for their business operations
  • 700,000 people receiving remote medical diagnostic and consultation through 5G
  • 700,000 students accessing education through 5G
  • 70% of the digital workforce equipped with 5G skills
  • 80% of the population with 5G mobile adoption

These goals have been segmented into various aspects of development, including infrastructure, economic, social and ecosystem development. The action plan also aligns effectively with the country’s other policies and plans, he 20-Year National Strategy, National Reform Plans, the Twelfth National Economic and Social Development Plan, National Security Plan and Policy, Thailand Digital Economy and Society Development Plan and the 5-Year Action Plan for Digital Economy and Society.

Flagship 5G projects for Thailand

Under the action plan mentioned above, Thailand has identified 31 major flagship projects to promote the adoption of 5G technology across the different areas where the goals have been set and facilitate its implementation across industries. These projects together will help the country realize its ambitions of adding $41 billion to the economy with 5G. Some of these are mentioned below

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5G Network in Rural Areas

Augmenting the deployment of 5G in rural areas with enhance internet connectivity by:

  • Boosting the investment in Radio Access Network Infrastructure for 5G network deployment
  • Building local engagement to understand the real demand on public services that utilize 5G technology

5G Precision Farming Trials

Facilitating 5G and IoT adoption to augment farmer knowledge on different crop needs, cost reduction etc. by:

  • Sharing knowledge on 5G-compatible IoT devices in enhancing farm management
  • Promoting the adoption of digital technologies to improve the productivity and efficiency of farming

5G Automated Manufacturing Factory

Encouraging industrial 5G use in factories by:

  • Establishing 5G smart factories
  • Developing machines that rely on low-latency and huge connectivity between devices

5G Remote Support for Machine Maintenance

Reducing transportation and opportunity cost due to machine downtime by facilitating off-site support by:

  • Developing 5G-compatible devices that support high definition live video streaming and support the use of AR technology for maintenance

5G Intelligent Traffic System

Improving traffic congestion and promoting effective traffic management with 5G by:

  • Installing intelligent traffic light control systems powered by 5G capabilities
  • Promoting data integration across intelligent light control systems to facilitate traffic management

5G Telehealth & Smart Hospital

Improving access to healthcare across all communities by adopting 5G to promote healthcare for all by:

  • Developing a platform that connects physicians and non-urgent medical problems, via low latency network for wider connectivity
  • Leveraging Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) services for big data analysis to screen patients’ health over 5G network to guarantee data security and service

5G Challenges for Thailand

In its journey to meet the ambitious goals that Thailand has set out for vis-a-vis 5G adoption and value realization, there are a few challenges along the way which the country is already addressing. Some of the top challenges include:

  • Limited awareness about the importance of 5G technology adoption and use among consumers and businesses, leading to low levels of trust and confidence
  • High cost of 5G implementation due to Thailand’s reliance on technology imports and other maintenance and set up costs
  • Insufficient allocated spectrum for 5G services and lack of incentives for telecommunication providers to explore sharing
  • Limited knowledge and capabilities in 5G application development and mismatch between labor demand and qualifications

While these are some of the challenges, the country is already making considerable headway with investments, policy changes and other interventions to ensure that 5G potential can be realized at an exponential rate.

Wrapping Up

It is quite evident that Thailand has incredible potential to rise as the 5G leader in the next decade. This potential coupled with the commitment as displayed through the action plan and the flagship projects translate to a conducive environment for 5G growth in the country. Given the high energy and commitment, 5G is likely to transform the infrastructure, economic and social landscape of Thailand and improve the country’s competitiveness in the global market.

Stay tuned to this space to know more about the latest developments and insights on the technology landscape of Thailand and other ASEAN countries.

Research

Current Landscape:

  • Thailand 5G Summit 2022: “The 5G Leader in the Region” aims to drive 5G as the country’s key digital infrastructure by promoting applications of 5G technology for an economic and social push towards the goal of becoming the ASEAN Digital Hub
  • Thailand was one of the first markets to launch 5G in the Asia Pacific region, with AIS and TrueMove H both launching commercial 5G services during Q1 2020, shortly after the conclusion of the country’s 5G auction.
  • AIS plans to focus much of its investment on 5G infrastructure, a crucial part of a digital overhaul called Thailand 4.0 for Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.
  • The regulator, The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), has been instrumental in establishing Thailand as a leading 5G market in the region.
  • The demand for digital solutions in sectors such as healthcare, education, retail, and tourism will drive the development of 5G in Thailand, combined with the new normal of the post-pandemic world.
  • Using 5G technology to enhance the quality of life for individuals, thereby contributing to the creation of a high-quality society and eliminating the disparities that result from access to government services across all fields.
  • The Thai government plays an active role in ensuring 5G can bring societal benefits, e.g., improving government services and extending healthcare access.
  • Developing a digital ecosystem to create an environment that is prepared for the implementation of 5G technologies for the purpose of encouraging all industries to be prepared for the commercial deployment of 5G technology
  • The 5G rollout has significantly improved the mobile user experience in Thailand.
  • According to the report, Thailand is “on par with its regional peers such as Australia and China and ahead of the Philippines, Japan, Singapore, and New Zealand in terms of 5G Availability.”

Use Case:

  • Drive 5G applications in the industrial sector to increase the country’s economic value through service system upgrades for smart agriculture, health tech, manufacturing.
  • 5G use case development should also be a boon for people’s quality of life.
  • There are 120 million registered SIM cards in the Thai market, while the country ranks No.2 for mobile commerce adoption worldwide.

Latest Investments:

  • Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced the establishment of a new public-private partnership focused on using 5G to encourage economic growth across several industry verticals.
  • CEO Somchai Lertsutiwong predicts about 4% to 5% of subscribers will turn away from the company formed by the merger, saying such combinations typically produce clashes of corporate cultures and technical glitches that upset customers.
  • That’s why we invest a lot in network development,” Somchai said in a recent interview. “Because we realized that, in the end, consumers will choose the one who provides a strong and smart network.”
  • According to a London-based data and analytics firm, 5G subscriptions will account for more than 55% of total mobile subscriptions by 2025 in Thailand, as 5G demand for high-speed data and low latency network gathers steam in the country.
  • The largest mobile operator in Thailand, AIS, reported a 1.3% QoQ / 0.4% YoY mobile revenue growth in Q2, while its 5G subscribers reached 3.9 million, a 39.3% increase from the last quarter.

Future Outcomes:

  • 5G is estimated to add close to $740 billion to manufacturing GDP in 2030.
  • The application of 5G to R&D and design systems, production control systems, and service management systems will revolutionize the production processes of vertical industries covering R&D and design, production.
  • In Thailand, around 5 million smartphone users could take up 5G this year. In addition, there are already new user behaviour triggered by 5G subscriptions today.
  • South East Asia and Oceania region will see data traffic per smartphone growing at the fastest rate globally by 2026. 5G subscriptions to touch 400 million by 2026.
  • 5G-enabled health services enable more people in remote areas to enjoy high-quality health services on an equal basis.
  • Through the telemedicine software system developed by the Ministry of Public Health Thailand coupled with Huawei’s Ideahub and 5G network technologies, doctors in rural hospitals can make more accurate diagnoses with the real-time guidance of specialists in central cities.
  • Thailand has been ranked first among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and sixth globally for medical tourism, making this industry a significant contributor to Thailand’s economy and serving more than 1.1 million tourists annually.

Challenges

  • Challenges to 5G adoption in the country included spectrum availability, regulatory policy, business use cases and fragmentation.
  • Each operator has spent abundantly for nationwide 3G and 4G network roll-outs, and high spectrum costs in the future will create a barrier to 5G adoption.

Impact

  • Thailand’s revenue from 5G technology is predicted to reach US$41 billion by 2030, while almost half of mobile subscribers are expected to have access to the fifth-generation service by 2027.
  • Thailand’s 5G adoption is still in its early stages but the country has seen the vibrant market, high consumer expectation, high demand and fast growth in 5G tech,” said Igor Maurell, newly appointed head.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this feature article are of the author. This is not meant to be an advisory to purchase or invest in products, services or solutions of a particular type or, those promoted and sold by a particular company, their legal subsidiary in India or their channel partners. No warranty or any other liability is either expressed or implied.
Reproduction or Copying in part or whole is not permitted unless approved by author.

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