Investment call to become a digital infrastructure hub
Thailand must invest up to 50 billion baht in an international internet gateway and data centre infrastructure amid the digital transformation in Asean, says the Telecommunications Association of Thailand (TCT).
"The time between 2016 and 2020 will be regarded as a transitional period for Thailand, a stage in the digital transformation lifting our economy into sustainable growth," president Suphachai Chearavanont said. "We intend to escape the middle-income trap and become a high-income economy by 2021."
He made his remarks at a seminar yesterday entitled "Innovative Digital Services and the Asean Digital Gateway", hosted by the TCT.
The TCT will set up a joint working committee with the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Ministry in a bid to push Thailand into becoming an Asean digital infrastructure hub by 2020.
"To achieve this goal, Thailand must have high-level international internet connectivity with the rest of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS)," Mr Suphachai said.
Government incentives and cybersecurity laws and regulations are also needed for global content developers to set up data centres here.
"An investment of up to 50 billion baht is needed," Mr Suphachai said.
ICT Minister Uttama Savanayana said the government had allocated 20 billion baht for his ministry to build a national broadband infrastructure to provide affordable broadband internet access to 79,000 villages nationwide. Building a broadband network will cost 15 billion baht and an international internet gateway 5 billion.
He insisted his ministry's international internet gateway project had nothing to do with the previous, heavily criticised single-gateway initiative.
"Thailand must become an Asean digital infrastructure hub by 2020 to pave the way for liberalisaton of the region's telecommunications sector," Mr Uttama said.
ACM Thares Punsri, chairman of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, urged the government to use money from the 4G spectrum auctions to build a new submarine cable network.
As of Dec 30, Thailand had 83 million mobile subscribers, 5.4 million fixed-line telephone users and 39.4 million internet users.
"Thailand set a world record in migrating 2G subscribers to 3G," ACM Thares said.
TCT vice-president Prasong Ruangsirikulchai pointed out that Thailand has four active submarine cables, lagging behind Singapore and Malaysia.
Thailand must enhance landline telephone connectivity within the GMS as well as build new submarine cables connecting East and South Asia, bypassing Singapore and Malaysia, he said.