Despite flood damage and a stumbling global economy, Thailand's overall information communications technology spending is forecast by IDC to reach US$16.8 billion (Bt526 billion) this year, up more than 10 per cent over last year.
The bulk of that spending will be on mobile services.
Thailand has 77 million mobile subscribers. Smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices are becoming a critical part of both business and personal life. IDC predicts Thais will spend $968 million on mobile data services in 2012 – a more than 15-per-cent jump over 2011. That growth will be driven by mobile Internet, video streaming and e-mail services.
All of us are dependent on our mobile devices. What we do with them is changing constantly. For all the magic of new mobile devices and services, mobile use also poses a challenge to the country’s operators – a “data storm” looms as the volume of e-mails, Web browsing, video, business and personal information grows exponentially. As a result, just as the country had to prepare for last year’s floods, network operators must adapt the technology infrastructure – the network – to successfully manage this new storm of data.
The preparation starts with a robust network infrastructure that supports mobile traffic growth. Infrastructure will be the “unsung hero” of the mobile digital economy just like roads, airports and electricity helped shape Thailand’s modern economy. Network infrastructure will touch lives daily, be vital for conducting business, communicating with people and delivering services. The quality of the network will help determine Thailand’s ability to participate in the digital economy. In other words, the quality of the network will shape Thailand’s competitiveness and growth prospects.
The network capable of managing the coming “data storm” needs to provide higher quality, faster speeds and more reliable services than previous network technologies. To deliver the promise and benefits that Thais increasingly expect from the mobile data revolution, network operators will need to ensure high data consumption and data throughput than can be managed without service interruptions or compromised integrity.
Thailand’s network operators understand the challenge. They understand their networks are critical to delivering improvements in online banking, education, healthcare, video services and a wide range of industry-specific business applications. The intelligence of those networks will be critical to the evolution of those services along with new, locally created ones.
Thailand’s operators, government and technologists are starting to rethink how to provision next generation networks capable of managing the coming “data storm”. Fibre technology will be needed to provide the speeds and throughput necessary to manage the exponential growth of mobile data. At the same time, innovations like small-cell wireless infrastructure and traffic-routing solutions will play a role in ensuring Thailand develops a robust digital economy.
The transition is underway. However, for Thais to reap the benefits of the coming mobile digital revolution, and for Thailand to ensure its ability to compete globally, network operators need to put the lessons of preparedness from a previous storm to work now. As they do, Thailand will ensure that the benefits of the mobile digital revolution have a positive, long-term impact on the lives of its citizens and its regional and global competitiveness.
Rajeev Singh-Molares is president of Apac, executive vice president of Alcatel-Lucent and chairman of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on ICT