WITH THE COUNTRY’S expanding coverage in fourth-generation wireless broadband services, users are not only enjoying a better browsing experience but are set to gain from the technology’s use as a key platform for the coming Internet of Things (IoT) era, say telecom operators and leading IT figures.
The 4G technology was launched in Thailand in early 2013, but with only limited spectrum bandwidth and network coverage before the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) auctioned more bandwidth to telecom operators on the 1,800- and 900-megahertz spectra in late 2015.
Natavudh Pungcharoenpong, chief executive officer of e-publication platform provider Ookbee, said the advent of 4G and the wider availability of smartphones were key factors behind the growth of the start-up ecosystem in Thailand and neighbouring countries.
For companies like Ookbee, people taking to 4G on their smartphones account for their whole customer base and revenue streams, Natavudh said.
Krating Poonpol, manager of 500 TukTuks, a venture-capital fund investing in start-ups in Thailand, said 4G technology had opened up a lot of bandwidth for data consumption and would change consumer behaviour by improving the user experience. These factors will speed up the adoption of e-commerce, e-payments and other aspects of the financial technology sector.
Thanawat Malabuppha, CEO of Priceza, said that from the perspective of e-commerce, every second counted and that meant speed had a big impact on sales.
“The 4G technology helps speed up usage and thus for the shopping experience, faster equates to a better user experience, or UX, and better UX means a better potential for customers to make decisions to buy online. And for Priceza, it’s the same perspective; with 4G, we can serve users better. Users then have better UX, and when we drive users to shop from our recommended shops, they have a fast UX as well. So at the end of the day, it all means more sales,” he said.
Besides the release of additional bandwidth, the NBTC auctions of the 1,800MHz and 900MHz spectra sparked huge investments in networks by all of the country’s telecoms, led by the bid winners Advanced Info Service (AIS) and True Corp group.
AIS acting chief marketing officer Pratthana Leelapanang put a figure of about Bt300 billion amounting from upfront licence fees and network investment stemming from the sale of both spectra. The spending occurred over the past one and a half years.
In November 2015, Advanced Wireless Network, a subsidiary of AIS, and True Move H Universal Communication, a unit of True Corp, emerged as winners of licences on the 1,800MHz spectrum, bidding a total of more than Bt80.6 billion.
In December 2015, True Move H Universal and Jasmine International each secured a 4G-900MHz spectrum licence, bidding a total of Bt151.95 billion. However, the NBTC seized the Jasmine 4G licence after its failure to make the initial instalment for the upfront fee for the band.
The licence was re-auctioned in May 2016; sole bidder AWN won by confirming the starting price of Bt75.6 billion.
Internet of Things
Pratthana said that while the 4G technology had deepened Internet penetration rates and increased the speed of broadband access, it also prepared Thailand for the adoption of IoT, where everyday physical objects will be connected to the Internet and be able to identify with other devices.
Total Access Communication (DTAC) chief technology officer Prathet Tankuranun said the 4G technology played a key role, as the country’s main telecom infrastructure and its availability boosted the confidence of investors.
He added that the demand for broadband Internet continued to rise in Thailand, reflected by a 200-per-cent jump in wireless data consumption on the DTAC mobile-phone network from October 2014 to October 2016.
Kittinut Tikawan, group chief commercial officer of True Corp, said the 4G availability enhanced people’s lives and supported the development of advanced applications in various sectors from finance to agriculture and would be a crucial platform for offering IoT services.
Among the IoT applications now in Thailand are those for 4G home security cameras, smart farming, and smart logistics.
CAT recently said it would set up a business unit to provide an IoT platform to serve state agencies wanting to provide smart services in the healthcare, farming and logistics sectors.