Thailand's 5G subscriptions are expected to reach 70 million by 2027, or 73% of the total subscriptions in mobile services, according to Digital Economy and Society (DES) Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn.
The 5G services market in the country is expected to reach 650 billion baht in 2030, which could create 130,000 digital-related jobs, he said at a seminar on 5G development in Thailand organised by Krungthepturakij newspaper.
Mr Chaiwut said Thailand was ranked a 5G global leader in five categories, spanning availability, download speeds, upload speeds, gaming experience and video experience, citing the Opensignal 5G Global Awards 2021.
Bangkok was also ranked among the top 10 5G cities in the world, thanks to Thailand being a first mover in adopting 5G tech in Asean as well as rapid investment in ultra-fast broadband network expansion.
According to a joint forecast by the Office of the National Digital Economy and Society Commission, Time Consulting and Huawei, the 5G-powered economy will reach 2.3 trillion baht by 2035, accounting for 10% of GDP -- a surge from 2.3% of GDP in 2021.
The ultra-fast broadband ecosystem is expected to create opportunities and increase added value for the industrial sector by at least 1.6 trillion baht in 2035, as well as reduce the public sector's cost by at least 400 billion baht per year, according to the report.
Thailand has deployed 20,000 5G stations and reached 4.3 million 5G users, which is 2.5 times the total number of 5G users in other Asean countries, he said.
"The government strongly believes in pushing the economy ahead through 5G tech and innovation, which could also bolster the country's competitiveness and prevent opportunity loss," said Mr Chaiwut.
The DES Ministry set a goal to make digital business account for 30% of GDP by 2030, up from 17% at present, through the support of the innovation ecosystem.
The target is part of the ministry's digital push for a post-pandemic recovery, consisting of expanding digital infrastructure such as data centres, elevating ICT development, increasing the country's competitiveness ranking and creating digital equality.
Speaking at the same event, Sharad Mehrotra, chief executive of Total Access Communication (DTAC), said 5G has strong potential to drive Thailand's recovery.
"Thailand amazes me as it is very quick to adopt new solutions and new technologies. The Pao Tang app has 40 million users in two years, while there are other QR code payments and social commerce," he said.
Yet the speed of Thailand's 5G adoption depends on more than mobile operators, said Mr Mehrotra.
"Thailand's 5G adoption is happening much more slowly than it did in South Korea," he said.
To support 5G adoption, regulations may need to be amended to facilitate the upgrading of tens of thousands of cell sites to 5G, said Mr Mehrotra, while network sharing may be necessary to expand 5G coverage more quickly. He said 3500-megahertz spectrum should also be leveraged for the 5G drive.