DE scraps national digital infrastructure mutual fund

DE scraps national digital infrastructure mutual fund

The government has scrapped the establishment of a mutual fund for national digital infrastructure aimed at gathering state telecom assets, including telecom networks returned after concessions, telecom towers and submarine cable routes.

Pichet Durongkaveroj, the digital economy and society (DE) minister, said the DE is no longer considering the issue because it needs funding for installation of the nationwide network.

"The government's broadband internet installation project for villages nationwide is a core part of the hard infrastructure development roadmap, which will serve digital transformation in the country over the next two decades," he said.

The government began installing its national broadband network in December 2016.

TOT completed covering 24,700 villages in December 2017.

The remaining 15,732 villages are on the verge of beginning installation, budgeted by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission's Universal Service Obligation fund.

The network is scheduled to be completed by end of this year.

The government had assigned the ICT Ministry (later renamed as the DE Ministry) to study establishment of a mutual fund for national digital infrastructure, which was expected to be listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET).

The ICT was also studying whether the national broadband network fund should have been combined with the digital infrastructure fund or be separate.

The previous plan also toyed with the transfer of telecom asset items from TOT and CAT Telecom into the national digital infrastructure mutual fund.

Under the existing infrastructure fund conditions, as outlined by the Securities and Exchange Commission, each fund shareholder cannot hold more than a 33% stake.

Mr Pichet said transferring state telecom assets to an infrastructure fund listed on the SET would not be in compliance with constitutional law, which mandates that state agencies must hold at least 51% of the total fund through a juristic person that operates state assets.

"The national broadband network, covering all villages nationwide, is a one-time investment project to eliminate the digital divide among Thais, providing access to digital services for daily life," he said.

Mr Pichet said the present backbone infrastructure will be able to serve data transmission demands no matter what technological advances transpire.

"Should additional investment be required to improve connectivity efficiency, I think it would only need a new switching system or adaptations for the last mile, not a core system overhaul," he said.

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