Nokia builds on 5G for enterprise use
Thailand is well into its first phase of 5G development, focusing on using the technology for enterprise solutions in Bangkok and the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC).
The country will still need time before consumers adopt the technology en masse because of the high price of 5G-compatible smartphones, said the head of Nokia Thailand.
Finland-based Nokia is one of three companies supplying the technology to build the world's 5G infrastructure, along with Sweden's Ericsson and China's Huawei, providing equipment to all three of Thailand's leading telecoms to build their 5G networks.
"Nokia has been working with telecom operators to get 5G deployed," said David Oxford, the head of Nokia Thailand.
"The focus of 5G development is definitely in Bangkok and the EEC, which is a great place to try out these new technologies. Government subsidies have attracted a lot of companies and industry."
This year the company announced a deal with True Corporation, the nation's second largest operator by subscribers, to deploy IP/MPLS solutions that will enable network slicing in the EEC.
Another deal was made with Total Access Communication (DTAC), Thailand's third largest telecom, to deploy 5G solutions over the next year.
"We are working with all three major operators -- Advanced Info Service, True and DTAC -- and major enterprises, as well as partnering with the government," he said.
Mr Oxford recently met with the digital economy and society (DES) minister to discuss telecommunications surrounding large upcoming government projects such as the U-tapao airport and how state enterprises like the Metropolitan Electricity Authority can use 5G to implement smart grids.
"In Thailand the government is very important in the telecommunications space because it sets the direction on frequency and tariffs with the operators, and drives specific industries," he said.
"It has been very important to Nokia to have a good relationship with the government here and work on various solutions to help the overall economy."
Nokia has a number of deals across Asean to be the preferred provider of 5G technology for telecoms such as StarHub and Singtel in Singapore.
No such deals have been announced in Thailand, as the major Thai telecoms are adopting a "multi-vendor" strategy, using technology from all three firms.
Huawei has made major inroads in the country with the government and telecom operators, despite the protests of the US, which views the Chinese company as a security threat.
The market shares for Thailand have not been forecast, but Huawei is perceived as the likely market leader because of its extensive presence in the country.
Some 30% of mobile traffic in Thailand will go through 5G networks by 2025, according to a study by AT Kearny, compared with 23% in all of Asia-Pacific.
While Thailand's roll-out of 5G preceded most Southeast Asian countries, it still lags Singapore and Vietnam.
Mr Oxford predicts 5G-enabled smartphones will not reach mass adoption in Asia until the price drops to US$400-500 from upwards of $1,000 currently.
The phones require complicated chipsets to work on the wide variety of 5G frequency ranges, which can differ vastly depending on the country.
In February, Thailand's telecom regulator auctioned off the 700-megahertz, 2600MHz and 26-gigahertz ranges to be used for 5G, raising over 1 billion baht, and beginning the nationwide roll-out of the new telecom network.
"We are focused on making sure we have the right solutions in Thailand in place because each country has its own frequencies," he said.
"We are trying to make sure we are competitive from a technology perspective, provide great quality of service and meet future demand."