Somkid urges 5G roll-out by mid-2020
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak says the 5G network must be rolled out by mid-2020 to ensure the country's competitiveness in the region as peers aim to deploy their ultra-fast internet networks next year.
He said the planned 5G licence auctions must not focus on exorbitant winning prices, as the network roll-out is crucial to support the economy and society.
"Thailand is battling to become the digital innovation hub of Asean, competing with Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines, which all plan to launch commercial 5G services in 2020," Mr Somkid said.
He was speaking on Wednesday during a visit to the Digital Economy and Society (DES) Ministry, where he was updated on the ministry's projects and delivered his policies.
Mr Somkid supports the ministry talking with the Board of Investment (BoI) to ease regulations governing foreign firms and attract multinationals to relocate their operating bases here.
Four global tech firms have expressed interest in relocating their manufacturing bases to Thailand, especially in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), he said.
5G technology will be crucial to driving innovation development, particularly in the EEC, Mr Somkid said. The country faces tough competition from its neighbours in drawing foreign investment.
"The NBTC secretary-general is committed to finishing the planned 5G licence auctions by the first quarter, while the NBTC and DES Ministry are working together to ease related conditions that would help promote 5G adoption," the deputy prime minister said.
The DES Ministry will play a key part in clearing hurdles for the country's competitiveness boost.
DES Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta said the ministry is in talks with the NBTC to recall the 3400-3700MHz spectrum range for the second batch of the 5G licence auction by 2020.
The range is currently held by satellite service provider Thaicom Plc, whose concession runs until 2021.
"The 3400-3700MHz range is the most compatible with the world's 5G adoption," Mr Buddhipongse said.
The DES Ministry and the NBTC will work together to determine the reserve price of the range for the auction, which must be practical in helping promote 5G technology.
The NBTC plans to hold auctions in February for four spectrum ranges: 700MHz, 1800MHz, 2600MHz and 26-28GHz.
During the meeting, Mr Somkid assigned the DES Ministry and related agencies to push digital development projects to aid the country's digital transformation.
Among the key projects are the extension of digital infrastructure for the national broadband project for villagers, the Digital Park scheme and smart-city development, as well as support for local startups.
Mr Buddhipongse said he would talk with the BoI on Dec 13, asking the board to create incentives to draw investment by global tech firms, including tax and work permit schemes.