5G at the heart of Thailand's future
Ultrafast network key to digital push
published : 19 Oct 2021 at 04:00
newspaper section: Business
writer: Janine Phakdeetham
5G technology is turning Thailand around with the value of 5G-driven business and services expected to hit 650 billion baht by 2030, and the ultrafast internet service playing an instrumental role in the push for S-curve industries in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) area, say key figures in state and private sectors.
They shared their views yesterday at a seminar entitled "EEC Future: 5G -- the driver of Thailand's competitiveness on the global stage", organised by business newspaper Krungthep Turakij.
Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, minister of Digital Economy and Society (DES), said the value of 5G-driven business and services is expected to reach 650 billion baht by 2030, while the 5G tech ecosystem is expected to generate 130,000 jobs by that time.
He said 5G tech-supported business is projected to push up the country's gross domestic product (GDP) by 5.5 times by 2035.
Thailand is the first mover in Asean in terms of the 5G spectrum licence auction, which was held in February last year, and the country expects a rapid 5G network expansion, Mr Chaiwut said.
The minister said mass adoption of 5G tech by industries and individuals will subsequently lead to lower costs per gigabyte usage.
"The 5G tech ecosystem is the new critical infrastructure of innovation development which will push Thailand to be a digital hub and the centre of smart cities in Asean," Mr Chaiwut said.
According to him, the government has implemented the 20-year Digital Thailand Development roadmap, which concerns four phases -- digital foundation, digital inclusion, full digital transformation, and global digital leadership.
In the past few years, the DES ministry has deployed free broadband internet access for 74,987 villages, and has boosted the capacity of submarine cables to drive Thailand to be a digital centre in Asean.
"The 5G tech infrastructure is the core component fulfilling the country's mission for digital transformation," Mr Chaiwut said.
The national 5G committee, chaired by the prime minister, was established last year as a key organisation to help push for 5G adoption in the country through policies and supportive measures, such as incentives.
The DES Ministry has also established Thailand's 5G ecosystem innovation centre, which can facilitate tech developers using 5G tech under a sandbox programme.
It is also establishing the Digital Innovation Centre as a core infrastructure for tech testing at Thailand Digital Valley, located in Chon Buri's Si Racha district. Construction is expected to be completed in the next 24 months.
HEART OF EEC
Wireless 5G technology is playing a central role in driving S-curve industries in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) area, with a new investment target set at 2.2 trillion baht by 2026, said the Eastern Economic Corridor Office.
The 5-year target, to start next year, is an increase from the 1.7-trillion-baht goal set between 2018 and 2022.
"5G technology supports all industries in the EEC zone," said Kanit Sangsubhan, secretary-general of the EEC Office, stressing high-tech industries cannot make significant progress without 5G technology.
Among the targeted S-curve industries are new-generation cars, smart electronic equipment, automated logistics, modern agriculture, and medicine.
The fifth generation (5G) wireless standard not only leads to super-fast communication and connection among electronic devices but also enables businesses to collect vast amount of data for further use in digital platform and application development as well as startup businesses, said Mr Kanit.
The 5G technology will eventually help Thailand attain the Industry 4.0 goal, he said.
Manufacturers are encouraged to apply digital technology and data analysis to their operations under the Industry 4.0 scheme.
"We can say 5G is a primary cause of robotic and automation development in the EEC area," said Mr Kanit.
He said 5G technology will also help entrepreneurs reduce operational costs by at least 30% and increase production efficiency at the same time.
On the macro level, this technology is expected to help Thai GDP grow by 0.5%.
Mr Kanit said the EEC Office is also working on human resource development, with up to 100,000 workers to possess technological skills to serve new industries in the EEC area.
Jareeporn Jarukornsakul, chairman and group chief executive of WHA Corporation Pcl, Thailand's largest developer of built-to-suit logistics facilities, said 5G technology has already been a crucial part of her business development.
Logistics is no longer a manual job as it becomes more automated, with robots replacing humans in working in freezing temperatures in warehouses, she said.
Her company runs 10 industrial estates in the EEC zone, and 5G technology will play a major role in developing infrastructure and facilities to serve factory clients, said Ms Jareeporn.
Global tech powerhouse Huawei, meanwhile, says 5G development is key to unlocking Thailand's role as the digital hub of Asean.
"5G is not there to just meet the requirements of the consumers for communication, but 5G is the backbone or the foundation for the whole digitalisation of all the industries," said Abel Deng, chief executive of Huawei Technologies Thailand.
Under Thailand's 4.0 plan, which outlines the roadmap for the country's transformation towards a digital economy, the government identified ten industries to target for investment and referred to them as the S-curve industries. These new industries are also located within the special economic development zone of the EEC.
Mr Deng said that the development of these ten industries is related to 5G and suggested that for Thailand to be more competitive, it must work on "IT integration, the use of digital tools and technology, scientific and technical employment, and labour productivity."
In March of this year, Huawei signed a memorandum of agreement with the EEC office and announced the opening of its ASEAN Academy (Thailand) EEC branch. The academy aims to offer digital development courses for some 30,000 students and IT-related professionals by 2024.
The chief executive of Huawei Thailand said that by improving those areas mentioned above, Thailand's competitiveness ranking on the Institute for Management Development index could be higher than 28th.
"When we drive Thailand towards a digital hub, it will attract more investments and more collaboration from foreign countries from the surrounding regions. This will ultimately make Thailand more attractive to all," Mr Deng explained.
Mr Deng also outlined the four 5G-centric components needed to make Thailand more competitive -- the connectivity hub, the cloud and artificial intelligence hub, the digital ecosystem hub, and the solid digital talent hub.
According to research by the Office of National Digital Economy and Society Commission cited by Huawei, it is projected that 5G will increase Thailand's GDP by 10%, or close to 3 trillion baht by 2035.