Thailand banks on a 5G future
Technology assisting economy, society
The government says it will support the development of 5G network infrastructure and related technology in a bid to help lift the nation's economy and society pummelled by nearly two years of pandemic.
Digital Economy and Society (DES) Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn said 5G technology and infrastructure will be pushed through five core sectors consisting of smart city, healthcare, farming, tourism, and services.
The minister gave an update on the government's progress in developing 5G infrastructure at the Bangkok Post Conference 2021, the virtual seminar, titled "Shaping Tomorrow: Power of 5G and Technology Convergence", held on Friday.
He thanked 5G network providers and mobile operators in the country for their efforts after the government completed the auctions of 5G spectrum licences in February 2020. Since then Thailand has been adopting 5G platforms and solutions in several sectors.
Mr Chaiwut said that 5G technology will be critical for boosting the country's competitiveness and economic recovery going forward.
Digital Economy and Society Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, top left, updates his audience on the development and rollout of 5G in Thailand at a virtual forum as part of the Bangkok Post Conference 2021, Shaping Tomorrow: Power of 5G and Technology Convergence. Other speakers: (Upper row, from left) Huawei Technologies (Thailand) CEO Abel Deng, Advanced Info Service CEO Somchai Lertsutiwong, True Corporation president Natwut Amornvivat; (bottom row, from left) Total Access Communication CEO Sharad Mehrotra, Siriraj Hospital deputy director Cherdchai Nopmaneejumruslers, Thonburi Healthcare Group innovation technology director Sucharee Sanghan, Pomo House International Pte managing director Chatchai Tangchittrong, and Bangkok Post vice chairman Worachai Bhicharnchitr, who delivered a welcome speech.
He said the government's 5G development is also aimed to promote equality through various projects which can increase people's opportunities to access better services. He gave several examples of 5G use with smart tourism in Phuket, healthcare at Siriraj Hospital as a key model, and digital farming as seen via Songkhla Lake basin research in the South.
The 5G technology provides three core advantages for innovation implementation -- so-called triangle benefits -- including enhanced mobile broadband, massive connectivity/internet of things (IoT), and an ultra-reliable form of communication technology.
According to the minister, the healthcare industry has become a priority sector for 5G development with a target to push Thailand to become the number one medical hub in Asia as Thailand's medical capability and services have a good reputation among foreign customers.
Through 5G platform implementation, hospitals could offer telemedicine services via a reliable high bandwidth network with low latency which is critical for medical treatments. This also reduces direct personal contact and improves the safety of healthcare workers amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, the internet of medical things (IoMT) will efficiently support health monitoring which is important for Thailand which will be dealing with an increasingly ageing society.
For smart farming, Mr Chaiwut said there are as many as eight million farming households in Thailand and that the farming sector contributed 8.64% of the country's GDP last year. Smart farming will provide farmers with precise information and technical tools which can help them to make better decisions and reduce production costs.
For 5G smart city, the minister said, 68% of the world's population will be living in urban areas by 2050, citing the United Nations.
Urbanisation comes with challenges such as crime, pollution, overcrowding, and social disorder.
Mr Chaiwut said the government through the DES have been promoting pilot development projects in major towns and areas with the goal of transforming them into smart cities.
The Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) has been focusing on such development and has already deployed a 5G smart pole system which is equipped with a pollution detector for PM 2.5 and airborne toxins levels, SOS button and surveillance camera.
Smart city transformation comprises seven elements, including smart economy, smart mobility, smart energy, smart living, smart people, smart governance and smart environment.
The Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA) has introduced a Smart City Accelerator Program to enhance potential startups for developing solutions to support and promote smart cities and their sustainability, he said.
According to the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) report in July, 5G subscriptions are expected to reach 580 million by the end of 2021 and increase to 3.5 billion by 2026.
Global mobile subscriptions by 5G are expected to account for 40.8% of total mobile subscriptions by the end of 2026. Meanwhile, the 4G system will account for 46.8%, GSM 4%, Wideband CDMA at 8.2% and others 0.2%.
According to Opensignal, 5G availability in Thailand was 18.3% of mobile connection time. The 5G availability represents the proportion of time when users have an active 5G connection.
In Asia-Pacific markets, Thailand ranked fourth in terms of 5G video experience with a speed of 80.7 Mbps, behind Taiwan with 84.1 Mbps, South Korea with 82.3 Mbps and Hong Kong with 81.6 Mbps, respectively.
Thailand ranked fifth in 5G gaming experience with 82.2 Mbps while South Korea was top with 90.4 Mbps and Singapore in second place at 87.2 Mbps.
In terms of 5G voice app experience, Thailand ranked fifth with speeds of 82.7 Mbps. The top two were South Korea and Taiwan with speeds of 84.9 Mbps and 83.9 Mbps, respectively.
The government set up the national 5G committee chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha last year, said Mr Chaiwut.
Mr Chaiwut, added that the social aspects of 5G and digital literacy are important, especially for security and personal data protection knowledge. The Electronic Transactions Development Agency provides services for cyber illegal cases through hotline 1212, he noted.