Cheap rural net by 2018

Cheap rural net by 2018

NBTC sets July bid for village broadband job

Thailand's first state low-cost, high-speed fixed line-based broadband internet service will be offered to 3,920 border villages across 62 provinces by mid-2018 as the national telecom regulator attempts to bridge the digital divide.

The service, which will run at minimum speed of 10 megabits of data per second (Mbps), will start at 50 baht per month with unlimited monthly usage.

As part of the 14-billion-baht Universal Service Obligation (USO) project managed by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), construction of the country's first low-cost fibre-optic broadband network will cover 3,920 border villages, plus 5,229 free WiFi hotspots and another 763 of public net centre.

The objective of the USO fund is to bridge the digital divide in remote areas through the provision of digital infrastructure.

NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said: "Some villages will have more than one free WiFi hotspot."

Each public net centre will be looked after by one staff member who will also support internet use in two to four villages, he added. The net centre will function as a community centre linked to other public bodies such as hospitals and schools.

Under the USO fund, the NBTC will provide internet access nodes for mobile connectivity in 1,890 villages where mobile signals are unavailable now.

The NBTC yesterday began the process of selecting the project's contractor via electronic auction. The winner will build the USO project with a budget of 14 billion baht.

Companies interested in bidding on the project can take bid documents from June 20 to 29. The e-auction will take place in July, and the winning bidder will be announced in August.

Mr Takorn said the NBTC aims to finish construction of the broadband network in 400 villages, or 15% of the total 3,290, by the end of 2017, reaching 2,000 by next April before finishing the work by mid-2018.

The broadband internet network for 3,290 villages will come with a minimum speed of 30Mbps.

The winning bidder will have to provide cheap broadband packages to villagers as well as free WiFi hotspot service.

Mr Takorn said the low-cost broadband service is designed specifically for low-income people living in remote villages. Three packages will be offered: 50 baht a month for 10Mbps speed, 150 baht for 15Mbps and 200 baht for 20Mbps. The service packages for 3,290 villages will be offered for at least five years, or until the year 2022, he said.

The 3,920 remote villages under the project include 2,027 in 17 northern provinces, 1,085 in 18 northeastern provinces, 752 in the central and southern provinces and 56 in the southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat.

In related news, the NBTC is finalising the details of a broadband network for an additional 15,732 villages, part of the government's plan for low-cost broadband infrastructure spanning 40,432 villages nationwide in areas where broadband internet is unavailable.

TOT Plc will supply the network in 24,700 villages. The remaining 15,732 will come from the NBTC using the USO fund.

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