Thai operators AIS and True hailed their efforts and government initiatives to create an ecosystem that supports 5G, which has accelerated the companies to prep for the next stages of the technology such as network slicing and healthcare solutions.
Speaking at Huawei Global Mobile Broadband Forum in Bangkok, AIS head of Mobile and Consumer Products Saran Phaloprakarn (pictured) explained 5G devices were expensive when 5G first launched in the country with the iPhone 12 being the only choice.
Now, more sub-US$200 have been launched from manufacturers such as Samsung and Xiaomi enabling consumers to connect at a mass scale.
The company has also subsidised devices through its device contracts to sell smartphones for as much as US$30 per month which has spurred the ecosystem of 5G devices in Thailand, he claimed.
The next steps for the advancement of 5G in Thailand will be tapping into network slicing and low latency, a move that will be enabled when mmWave spectrum is deployed when handsets to support them are launched next year.
“What we need is the deployment of the millimetre wave spectrum. That depends greatly on the availability of handsets [in the market]. Today millimetre wave-enabled handsets are only available in the US.
“We hope that this year or next year there will be millimetre wave devices and that ecosystem of devices is ready for us so that we can deploy the enhanced mobile broadband and unleash the potential of 5G,” said Phaloprakarn.
Meanwhile rival True tipped it will reach 10 million 5G subscribers by the end of this year with 85% coverage. True co-group chief growth officer Tanaphon Manavutiveth compared this figure to the global rate of 5G coverage which is 30%.
Manavutiveth pointed out Thailand is a leading adopter of 5G in the ASEAN region with a rate of 9.2%, behind only the leading nation Singapore which has a rate of 13.9%. He also noted shipments of 5G devices for the operator grew from 5% last year and is on track to triple to 15% this year, this is supported by its retail partners 7-Eleven, Lotus and Metro to name a few totalling around 15,000 sales points.
The executive ended his speech on the need for more collaborations to find more use cases such as healthcare, to propel 5G as the next-generation technology it promises to be.
True is developing autonomous vehicles among many solutions for Thailand’s most prestigious hospital Siriraj, which is tipped to be one of the first smart hospitals in the ASEAN.