AIS urges 5G slowdown

AIS urges 5G slowdown

Mr Somchai says AIS doesn't want to see the telecom industry face a 5G trap because of premature investment without business use cases.
Mr Somchai says AIS doesn't want to see the telecom industry face a 5G trap because of premature investment without business use cases.

Advanced Info Service (AIS) is putting the brakes on 5G implementation and investment, saying the technology should not be commercially launched in the country before 2021.

The next two years should be a period of lab tests and business experimentation, said AIS chief executive Somchai Lertsutiwong.

AIS is urging the telecom regulator to facilitate 5G infrastructure investment by designing practical conditions for spectrum auctions in which the highest bid is not first priority.

"5G is a critical agenda item for innovation development, but we don't want to see the telecom industry face a 5G trap because of premature investment without business use cases," Mr Somchai said.

He said 5G implementation and investment should come at a proper time, once local businesses set up a system for its use.

The CEO said 2021 (a year after commercial 5G is launched globally) is more appropriate for operators to come up with use cases in Thailand.

Mr Somchai said several developed countries are pushing 5G adoption, as they have special agendas where the technology could help their economies and benefit local vendors.

South Korea, for example, has Samsung, a smart device producer, while China has Huawei Technologies. The US will benefit from 5G chipset demand, while Japan, a global automotive leader, will gain from smart vehicle development, he said.

"I don't mean AIS will not prepare for 5G adoption, but the technology should create the optimum benefit to the country and people at the most appropriate time," Mr Somchai said.

AIS holds the most spectrum bandwidth at 60x2 megahertz. The company will participate in spectrum auctions in the future up to its study of customer demands, price of licence and the auction's conditions.

The AIS chief did not elaborate on whether the company would join the spectrum auctions planned for this year by the telecom regulator, saying it depends on whether there are attractive conditions.

Mr Somchai said too high a cost for spectrum licensing will create an obstacle for 5G adoption because the technology requires at least an additional 100MHz of bandwidth for each operator.

More importantly, each operator has spent an abundant budget for 3G and 4G network roll-outs.

Mr Somchai said AIS's combined cost of frequency licences since 2012 now stands at 144 billion baht, plus the cost of network roll-outs for which it spent 197 billion baht from 2012 to the present.

It also spent 258 billion baht on a revenue-sharing basis with TOT under a 25-year concession since 1990 and a further 201 billion baht investing in 1G and 2G roll-outs in the past.

Vichaow Rakphongphairoj, group co-president of True Corporation, said the cost of a new licence is one of the most critical factors for 5G adoption.

"In China, the government offered 160MHz of bandwidth to China Mobile for providing 5G, 100MHz to China Telecom and 100MHz to China Unicom, so that China can compete with others," he said.

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