Despite being in the relatively early stage of implementation, 5G use cases are already proliferating in Thailand and are beginning to transform businesses across sectors, said a panel of industry experts at yesterday's Bangkok Post Conference on "5G: The Game Changer".
Woragarn Likhitdechasakdi, deputy chief technology officer of the carrier network at Huawei Technologies Thailand, said the country is on a rapid pace for 5G adoption in terms of network roll-out and has already demonstrated a variety of use cases.
"The country is on a rapid pace for 5G adoption in terms of network roll-out." — Woragarn Likhitdechasakdi, Deputy chief technology officer of the carrier network, Huawei Technologies Thailand
5G can reshape businesses, add value and bring about wholly new business models, Mr Woragarn said, and in Thailand multiple sectors will be transformed, from healthcare to transport to tourism.
The Covid-19 outbreak will drive adoption of 5G in the healthcare sector, which can be served in three areas: tele-consultation with physicians, remote diagnosis via analytics by artificial intelligence, and preventive care.
Smart ports, especially those in the Eastern Economic Corridor, can use 5G-connected cranes with remote control vehicles and surveillance, as well as augmented reality for maintenance.
According to Mr Woragarn, the agricultural sector can use 5G-connected drones, robotics and analytics systems to improve crop yields, while the tourism sector can use augmented reality glasses and live broadcasting to attract tourists to new destinations.
Globally, various 5G-enabled devices are ready for consumers, including smartphones, CCTV, fixed wireless access devices and 5G module chipsets, all helping to speed adoption of 5G among the public.
Some technologies cannot run effectively on 4G, such as connected drones, wireless robotics, cloud-enabled virtual reality/augmented reality and connected AI-assisted vehicles, and must rely on 5G networks.
"We need to select focused industries and digital awareness and skills to move forward with a digitised Thailand," Mr Woragarn said.
HEALTHCARE FROM HOME
Kantapong Chanthanawan, vice-president for digital health transformation at Thonburi Healthcare Group, said 5G technology is expected to have a significant and positive impact on the healthcare industry in the near future.
"5G connectivity can bring the hospital to your doorstep." — Kantapong Chanthanawan, Vice-president for digital health transformation, Thonburi Healthcare Group
"The low latency and high performance of 5G will make things like 'tele-presence', where a surgeon watches a real-time operation and can provide expert support, and 'tele-surgery', where the doctor actually operates the surgical device remotely, possible," Mr Kantapong said.
Moreover, it may no longer be necessary for patients to be taken to hospital. Instead, they can undergo a remote consultation, saving both the doctor and the patient time and making it possible for individuals who struggle to receive care to obtain proper treatment.
"5G connectivity can bring the hospital to your doorstep," Mr Kantapong said. "Patients will no longer visit hospitals for their check-ups or minor ailments. Hospitals in the future will be the place only for patients in critical condition."
SELF-DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
Krisda Utamote, corporate communications director at BMW Thailand, said the automotive industry is seeing four key disruptions dubbed ACES: autonomous driving, connected cars, electrified vehicles and shared mobility.
"5G will make self-driving cars possible." — Krisda Utamote, Corporate communications director, BMW Thailand
He said 5G technology will play an important role in autonomous driving and connected cars.
"5G will make self-driving cars possible," Mr Krisda said. "It will also enable cars to interact with road infrastructure, traffic lights, drivers and even passengers through 5G-enabled smartphones, which could prevent accidents, avoid traffic jams and create safer and more efficient driving."
He said 5G tech will revolutionise how vehicles are built, as automakers employ wirelessly connected production robots to work on car body construction. It will also affect how cars are serviced, as repair shops tap secure software updates for complex telematics systems.
"5G will also influence how passengers enjoy the ride, as its high speed and low latency allow for more seamless streaming of entertainment," Mr Krisda said.
BMW has already announced plans to launch the first premium vehicle to carry standard 5G wireless in 2021.
Thakorn Piyapan, chairman of Krungsri Consumer and head of digital banking and innovation at Bank of Ayudhya, said 5G will be a boon for the customer experience in the financial and banking sector.
"5G can help ensure financial security." — Thakorn Piyapan, Chairman, Krungsri Consumer, and head of digital banking and innovation, Bank of Ayudhya
He said mobile banking apps are very important tools for financial transactions among customers.
In the past, many app developers may have been concerned about large apps that might be inconvenient for clients to download or make transactions with.
"5G can make it possible for developers to pay less attention to optimising apps and instead may add a lot more features," Mr Thakorn said. "This would ensure a better experience for customers using the apps."
He said banks in the future may need to seek biometric data, such as face and voice, as part of authentication to enable financial transactions by customers. 5G tech could make it faster and smoother to transfer such data, which is substantial in size.
Mr Thakorn said 5G can help ensure financial security. For example, when suspicious transactions in bank accounts are detected, banks can draw from photos of people who made the transactions via mobile banking to compare with those who own the accounts.
5G will also help speed the transfer of necessary data for authentication, he said.
According to Mr Thakorn, banks cannot move towards 5G tech on their own, but rather will need to engage in an ecosystem with other industries, including telecoms, and work together to ensure the benefit for customers.
Thanida Suiwatana, chief business officer of Lazada Thailand, said 5G technologies will drive growth of e-commerce globally, which is expected to reach US$4.2 trillion in value this year, up 25%, as Thailand's e-commerce also grows 25% to 220 billion baht.
"Online sellers should prepare for future content that supports these technologies." — Thanida Su iwatana, Chief business officer, Lazada Thailand
Data is key to the success of e-commerce, which embraces artificial intelligence, big data and algorithms to enhance user experiences.
5G can provide high speeds to make these processes faster, especially for transactions and analytics. For example, chatbot customer service can interact with others more naturally on a faster, lower-latency network.
In addition, there are more hardware options for shopping, like smartwatches, smart homes and cars, enabling shoppers to alter their behaviour by using voice search.
Ms Thanida said the faster speeds will enable websites and mobile apps to deliver faster performance.
A recent study found that speeds just one second faster enable sales conversion to increase 25% and boost the size of online shopping carts by 60% in value.
5G also brings an immersive shopping experience with virtual and augmented reality to allow customers to "try on" clothes and lipstick.
In the future, shoppers will be able to touch and smell items through the use of "refinery technology" that provides a multisensory experience for the user. This could break barriers to shopping for some products such as shower heads with a particular feel and water pressure.
"Online sellers should prepare for future content that supports these technologies with more short video clips of 30 seconds to one minute," Ms Thanida said. "Lazada focused on shoptainment with live streaming, and this increased sales conversion by 60%."