Low-cost 3G service urged

Higher usage rate can lift GDP by 11%

Intel, the world's largest chip maker, is urging the Thai government to offer a low-cost prepaid mobile third-generation internet service to low-income people to help close the digital divide.

While Thailand's household broadband penetration rate is expected to reach 22% this year, the government's effort could almost double the rate to 40% by 2015, said Carlos Martinez, director at Intel World Ahead Group, a business unit of Intel.

The higher rate could increase the country's gross domestic product (GDP) by 11% in three years, creating economic growth worth US$38 billion, he said.

The figure was based on the fact that every 10% increase in broadband penetration could contribute a 1.38% increase in GDP or $4.76 billion.

"To boost broadband adoption in developing countries, wireless broadband internet service charges should make up only 3-5% of the average monthly income of people," said Mr Martinez.

More than 45 countries offer low-cost prepaid broadband services. Sri Lanka has enjoyed tremendous broadband subscription growth, surging from 20% in 2009 to 100% in 2010.

Intel is in talks with the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission and TOT Plc to propose its low-cost broadband scheme.

Mr Martinez said Thai people spend an average of $10 for one gigabyte. For the imminent 3G commercial mobile service, mobile operators should provide sub-tariff packages tailored specially to low-income people.

More affordable internet-connected devices should be offered, priced below $200, to stimulate the country's broadband adoption, representing a major step towards closing the digital divide.

Mr Martinez said closing the digital divide isn't just an economic issue; it's one of the great civil rights challenges. Broadband can be the great equaliser, giving every Thai with an internet connection access to a world of new opportunities.

Many studies showed that increased broadband penetration can improve the quality of education in a country.

The greater the online population in a country, the higher efficiency of its e-government services, especially in rural areas, said Mr Martinez.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Suchit Leesa-nguansuk
Position: Senior Reporter