Call for more submarine cables to help Thai internet

Call for more submarine cables to help Thai internet

The government should build a regional internet gateway by adding more submarine cable lines to accommodate growing usage and become an internet connectivity hub in Asean by 2020, suggests a telecom veteran.

This idea is better than the single international internet gateway (IIG), which has run up against strong public opposition recently, said Prasong Ruangsirikulchai, technical expert and senior director of NTT Communications (Thailand).

"The government should realise it's impossible to do a single gateway. Moreover, it will destroy the digital economy policy," he said.

Mr Prasong said the IIG initiative would return Thailand's international connectivity back to the last decade, when CAT Telecom was the only provider.

It is hard to consolidate all the international internet links into one. Even the famed Great Firewall of China has three gateways, in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, to connect with other countries, he said.

Mr Prasong said Laos had tried a similar project called the single exit or single gateway for the past five years, but it still could not dissolve its 15 existing international internet connection lines.

Thailand has 10 active international internet gateways out of 17 total, which have over 100 internet links outside the country.

In the past nine years Thailand's international internet traffic grew 81%, sitting at two terabits a second in August, and is expected to reach 38 terabits by 2020.

Mr Prasong said policymakers should consider investing in the country's submarine cables that connect from India to Thailand to Hong Kong. This will attract more internet traffic from the Greater Mekong Subregion, serving 270 million people.

"The submarine cable link is like a digital version of the Kra Isthmus, where we can eliminate 1,200 kilometres by bypassing Singapore and Malaysia for our internet connection. This will help to reduce internet costs by 30-40%," Mr Prasong told the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand.

Thailand has only seven submarine cable lines, mostly owned and operated by CAT Telecom, while Singapore has 20 and Malaysia 12.

Mr Prasong is also vice-president of the Telecommunications Association of Thailand (TCT), which plans to submit its submarine cable proposal to the Information and Communication Technology Ministry on Oct 19.

ICT Minister Uttama Savanayana earlier said the single gateway was just a concept with no implementation time line.

"When it is applied in the future, it may be much different from what people are concerned with now," he said.

Mr Uttama said the single gateway concept should be renamed to prevent misunderstanding, as it is aimed at facilitating internet protocol traffic for aggregate links enabling bargaining power with international parties, meaning lower domestic internet tariffs.

TCT president Supachai Chearavanont previously said attractive tax incentives and adequate data security measures were crucial to attracting global technology firms to invest in Thailand.

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