NBTC: EEC may get first taste of 5G adoption

NBTC: EEC may get first taste of 5G adoption

An artist's rendition of the smart city concept in the Eastern Economic Corridor province of Rayong. The EEC spans Rayong, Chon Buri and Chachoengsao.
An artist's rendition of the smart city concept in the Eastern Economic Corridor province of Rayong. The EEC spans Rayong, Chon Buri and Chachoengsao.

The Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) areas could see 5G rolled out, along with industrial and healthcare zones by next October, says the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

The EEC is the government's flagship investment scheme, spanning the eastern provinces of Chon Buri, Rayong and Chachoengsao. Due to be completed by 2021, the project is aimed at creating a technological, manufacturing and service hub connected to Asean neighbours by land, sea and air.

Nationwide 5G adoption is expected next year as the network roll-out and business use cases need time to take shape, the telecom regulator said.

The Digital Economy and Society (DES) Ministry and the NBTC have started considering appointments for the national 5G committee, in line with the prime minister's instructions, said Takorn Tantasith, the NBTC secretary-general.

The structure of the panel is expected to be discussed this week between the NBTC and the ministry.

"There could be 10-15 people on the panel," Mr Takorn said.

The committee will be chaired by the prime minister to create collaboration between related parties, especially the Industry, Commerce, Transport and Agriculture ministries, which are key 5G adopters in the future. The NBTC office will serve as the secretariat of the panel.

Mr Takorn said the panel, as a coordination centre for related agencies, would ease 5G adoption in the country and help manage spectrum recalls.

Some spectrum holders need to return frequencies to the NBTC in exchange for compensation. The committee will neither have a hand in the spectrum auction nor determine the spectrum licence prices.

Mr Takorn reiterated that 5G spectrum licences would be priced low enough to ease the financial burden shouldered by major mobile operators. 5G adoption also needs a lot more network roll-out investment.

Mr Takorn noted that the three major mobile operators in Thailand spent a combined 390 billion baht (excluding value-added tax) on 3G and 4G licence auctions since 2012.

The regulator is considering shortening the process in the lead-up to the 5G spectrum auctions to make sure that the network roll-out happens within the first half of next year.

The 2600-megahertz spectrum is scheduled to be auctioned by the end of this year, Mr Takorn said.

A grace period for licence payments would also be granted to minimise the financial burden on the mobile operators who make 5G network investments, he said.

There are 26 countries in the process of installing 5G networks, and the number is expected to reach 42 by the end of this year. These countries are tapping into the 2600MHz and 3400MHz spectra for 5G service.

In Thailand, the 2600MHz band is held by state-owned broadcaster MCOT, which has to return an unused 140MHz of bandwidth to the NBTC in exchange for compensation.

Additionally, the NBTC is in the process of recalling the 3400-3700MHz ranges from satellite business provider Thaicom and satellite TV firm PSI. A combined 180MHz of bandwidth would be recalled from them.

Thaicom's 3GHz of bandwidth on the 26-28GHz spectrum range will also be recalled.

DES Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta said the ministry will collaborate with other relevant agencies to clear obstacles to 5G adoption in the country, particularly in the EEC.

Once the national 5G committee is formed, a clear roadmap for the country's 5G adoption and related infrastructure development will be formed through cooperation with other ministries, Mr Buddhipongse said.

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