If ‘Thailand 4.0’ is to be taken seriously, the country cannot be left behind in upgrading its support technology
The government needs to speed up the auction of critical radio frequencies for the private sector to develop fifth-generation (5G) mobile services if the country’s digital economic ambitions are to be taken seriously.
According to a Huawei analysis based on the World Bank’s GDP database of member-countries, 5G technology will usher in a new era for the Thai digital economy and society, with significant benefits for manufacturing industries, agriculture, wholesale and retail, public services and other sectors.
Generally speaking, the economy and society will be driven by mobile services that are at least 10 times faster than today’s speed using 4G technology. Besides the much greater speed, 5G also has better capabilities in terms of latency and Internet connections.
Based on the World Bank’s database of Thailand’s GDP forecasts, Chinese telecom giant Huawei estimates that the 5G infrastructure would add US$56.7 billion (Bt1.78 trillion) to the country’s economy by 2035, or 4.56 per cent of GDP.
In the economic sphere, manufacturing industries will gain the most, $14.3 billion, followed by agriculture, forests and fisheries, wholesale and retail businesses, information and telecom services, finance and insurance, tourism and hospitality and transport and storage. For society at large, public and government services, healthcare and social work, education and utilities are among the major gainers.
Several countries – among them the United States, South Korea and Japan – have announced they will start commercial 5G services around 2019, while device and gadget makers are set to roll out 5G-enabled models to facilitate the faster and more capable mobile and related services.
With the biggest chunk of Thailand’s exports coming from manufacturing industries, the 5G infrastructure is expected to play the leading role in upgrading the competitiveness of Thailand’s export-oriented industries.
Machines and equipment used in manufacturing will soon be mostly Internet-connected, while artificial intelligence and automation will be standard features of new-generation factories so that the country can remain competitive in the international marketplace.
China, which is often dubbed “the world’s biggest factory”, is ready to take advantage of this new technology, so smaller countries such as Thailand will have to strive for more innovation to stay relevant. Most if not all manufacturing and service industries, from automobiles and electronics to farming, healthcare and hospitality, need to be “smart” by capitalising on the 5G infrastructure.
In other words, 5G will deliver what the Thailand 4.0 initiative is all about – from developing connected automobiles, electric vehicles and smart electronic gadgets to smart farming and factories using sensors, robotics, drones and other IoT applications, as well as virtual reality and augmented reality technology, among others.
Hence, the government needs to quickly empower the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission, which is currently in limbo, to carry out its task of auctioning off the spectrum for the private sector so as to avoid a further delay in adopting the 5G technology.