Thai government policy must encourage broadband growth, says GSMA

The GSMA has issued a new report highlighting how effective government policy in Thailand could increase mobile and fixed broadband penetration to 133% by 2020, up from 52% in 2013.

This growth would lead to a cumulative GDP increase of US $23 billion (THB 730 billion), and the increased access to mobile broadband infrastructure would generate new skilled jobs, strengthen digital inclusion and expedite the goals set out in the government’s Digital Economy Plan.

“Mobile broadband is a critical enabler in achieving the Government of Thailand’s strong ambitions to turn the country into a digital economy and boost digital inclusion, as outlined in its Digital Economy Plan,” said Tom Phillips, Chief Regulatory Officer, GSMA. “The impact of mobile broadband access is profound, from improving productivity and driving the creation of new businesses and skilled jobs, to delivering mobile healthcare and money services and enabling smart cities. Realising the potential of mobile broadband in Thailand hinges on the release of spectrum for 4G, along with policies aimed at promoting a truly competitive, dynamic, investment-led mobile sector.”

The GSMA report, “Building Thailand’s Digital Economy and Society”, developed by Analysys Mason, highlights six key areas where appropriate policy and regulation will be required to ensure that mobile broadband develops successfully in Thailand:

  • Provide fair, transparent access to mobile spectrum by transitioning from a concession to a licensing regime;
  • Award available spectrum in the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands at the earliest opportunity to expand 3G and 4G mobile services, as the swift adoption of 3G in Thailand indicates there is demand for mobile broadband;
  • Plan to make the globally harmonised 700MHz ‘Digital Dividend’ band available to mobile to expand coverage in urban and currently underserved rural areas;
  • Establish a business-friendly environment and a level playing field with state-owned companies through transparent processes and stakeholder consultation to maximise the certainty of investment in cutting-edge technologies and services;
  • Guarantee the independence of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission by ensuring it is structurally and functionally separate from the government and operates with a clearly defined mandate leads to greater investor confidence; and
  • Adopt government-led demand policies to build awareness of the Internet and strengthen digital literacy, encouraging mobile broadband usage by the Thai population.

Successful mobile applications are already offered in Thailand, which align with the goals of the Digital Economy Plan. Mobile operator DTAC’s Farmer Information Superhighway has empowered 250,000 farmers through access to essential agricultural information, improving yields and profitability. Similarly, TrueMoney enables 25 million people to execute e-payment transactions and is expanding to person-to-person payment for unbanked customers. The further rollout of 4G network infrastructure in Thailand will provide a platform to significantly extend mobile operator offerings in areas such as mobile money and digital commerce, as well as the creation of new services to respond to the needs of local populations.

“We encourage the members of the Digital Economy Committee to consider the mobile sector as a critical enabler for the development of a vibrant digital economy and society,” continued Phillips. “With so much at stake for Thailand’s citizens and businesses, we cannot afford to fail.”

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