4G mobile subscribers set to skyrocket
Newcomer Jasmine fuelling competition
The number of fourth-generation (4G) mobile broadband subscribers in Thailand is projected to double next year, fuelled by intense competition among operators, says Stockhom-based telecommunications equipment maker Ericsson.
The subscription rate for high-speed wireless broadband is expected to continue growing five-fold within three years.
"By 2018, Thailand will rank as the third-largest 4G market in Southeast Asia and Oceania, accounting for 40% of total mobile subscribes, outpacing Australia and Singapore with 70% and 80%, respectively," said Bunyati Kirdniyom, head of regulatory affairs at Ericsson (Thailand).
Ericsson earlier predicted Thailand's 4G subscribers would account for 30% of mobile subscribers in 2018, up from 10% this year.
The revision is necessary to be in line with the current mobile market environment and newcomer Jasmine International, Mr Bunyati said.
There are 87 million mobile subscribers in Thailand.
Mr Bunyati said mobile operators were expected to tap rural areas, which have 20 million 2G users or 28.6% of the population.
"We expect to see aggressive promotions such as giving away handsets and offering phones at subsidised prices to attract customers migrating to 4G," he said.
Mr Bunyati said Ericsson expected the smartphone penetration rate in Thailand would reach 90% by 2018, up from 60% this year.
First-time and new-entry smartphone users are the prime targets among 4G mobile operators, he said.
Mobile data traffic in Thailand is expected to grow 14 times in six years, with average data usage of nine gigabytes per month per user in 2021, up from 1.2 Gbps in 2015.
Mobile data use in Asia-Pacific countries average 6.9 Gbps.
The number of mobile subscribers in Southeast Asia and Oceania is expected to reach 1 billion this year including 87 million in Thailand.
Mr Bunyati said streaming media would account for 70% of mobile data traffic in Thailand by 2021, up from 50% this year.
TV sets, cars and cameras will be the top three connected devices.
Mr Bunyati said Ericsson had set up a new information technology and communications team to educate mobile operators on how to embrace new technology to create new revenue streams and how to implement the network roll-out faster.
Ericsson will also provide financial credit to mobile operators who choose its equipment for their 4G network roll-out.
"We believe Jasmine will be the main factor driving existing operators to increase their network investment and expand network coverage aggressively to further improve signal quality," Mr Bunyati said.
He also said the outcome of the 4G spectrum auctions demonstrated the importance of the spectrum for mobile operators to serve the skyrocketing mobile data traffic growth.
According to an internal study conducted by Ericsson, doubling the speed of broadband internet can add 0.3% to GDP growth.
4G mobile infrastructure can improve average mobile broadband download speeds in Thailand, which currently rank the sixth slowest in Southeast Asia and Oceania, Mr Bunyati added.