The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is spurring a number of Southeast Asian (SEA) economies to push for rapid digitalisation of their industries, with Thailand aiming to evolve to a value-based, innovation-driven economy.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) intends to use 5G technology to create an ecosystem that links government agencies and private sectors to support this economic evolution.
Theetanun Rattanasanyanuphap, Executive Director of Telecommunications Policy and Resource Management Bureau, Office of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, said: “NBTC has joined hands with other sectors in supporting the telecommunications infrastructure and application of 5G technology in various industries.”
Thailand has a vision to be the next Asia Pacific Medical Hub and to create a work-from-home haven for foreign executives.
Asia Pacific Medical Hub
As part of the Thailand 4.0 initiative, developing itself as a Medical Hub will be occurring alongside developments of other future economic trends – Robotics, Aviation and Logistics, Biofuels and Biochemicals, and Digital.
To become the next Asia Pacific Medical Hub by 2025, Thailand aims to enhance its healthcare infrastructure via continuous technological developments in Telehealth, Smart Medical and Devices Robotics – all of which depend on the advancements in 5G technology, as well as AI and big data, to support data analytics and medical services.
Maximising the benefits of the smart health tech and robotics would also depend on the reliable availability of 5G connectivity in hospitals and medical centres. Previously in 2020, Thailand’s two biggest telcos supported local hospitals by rolling out 5G as they coped with the influx of pandemic-related patients.
The introduction of 5G networks and spurring technology infrastructure development has been in line with NBTC’s telecommunications and business strategy – to create an intertwined ecosystem linking government agencies and private sectors, especially content providers and SMEs who benefit from leveraging on these technologies.
Utilising this medical technology towards becoming the regional medical hub is also in line with NBTC’s ongoing 5G technology development which has progressed since the 5G first wave frequency auction held in February 2020. Furthermore, mobile operators – Advanced Info Service (AIS) and True Corp – have been inducing 5G network rollouts throughout the country, especially along the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) to provide service to support 5G applications in vertical sectors.
Rattanasanyanuphap shared that harnessing data analytics along with 5G and cloud computing infrastructure will help to create value towards the country's medical hub aspirations, as they support next-generational smart healthcare applications.
“NBTC is studying international guidelines for promoting 5G deployment and creating incentive policies to promote investment in digital infrastructure and services, and encourage the use of digital technologies in healthcare,” she said. “The Smart Hospital initiative, with the support of efficient telecommunications infrastructure is an aspect that helps us achieve the Thailand 4.0 policy goal. It also provides opportunities for investment and business expansion.”
To further Thailand’s efforts of restructuring its economy, NBTC plans on promoting Thailand as the work-from-home destination for foreign executives.
Working from home on innovative platforms has become the current modus operandi worldwide since the pandemic. Thailand has shown itself to be the potential work-from-home hub given their advantages.
- First mover for 5G wireless broadband adoption in ASEAN
- Successful management of the pandemic outbreak with their effective public healthcare supported by robotic care, solutions, and 5G network infrastructure
- Low cost of living compared to other countries in the region
This initiative will be proposed to the 26-member National 5G Committee chaired by the nation’s Prime Minister, together with the proposal to support the roll out of local over-the-top (OTT) platforms embedded with 5G tech for daily usage.
The committee will help to clarify the incentives to be pushed out to attract global enterprises to let their executives and tech-skilled staff live and work from home in Thailand. These incentives could include flexible work permits. The rationale behind this endeavour is to attract foreign talent who could help generate revenue and distribute knowledge in the country.
The NBTC Secretary-General has noted that 5G-embedded OTT platforms will also provide a new opportunity for the local economy. Previously, Thailand lagged behind other countries in terms of 3G and 4G adoption, making it difficult for Thai tech enterprises to develop local OTT platforms to compete with foreign ones, he said.
The situation has since changed after Thailand launched commercial 5G usage back in February 2020, as ultra-fast internet networks have been used in telemedicine to boost healthcare services in the fight against the coronavirus.
The development of local OTT embedded with 5G tech such as artificial intelligence for daily use will be key to promoting new revenue streams in the new economy.
The platforms can be developed for several key sectors, such as logistics and warehouse management, which can align with the Thailand’s 4.0 initiatives.
Siti Bahari is a journalist with the iTNews Asia team