By USANEE MONGKOLPORN,
CAT TELECOM has announced that it will proceed with the plan to build a national Internet gateway, which it claims would help make Thailand a digital hub in Asean.
The aim of the project is not to control the flow of information into the country over the Internet as some fear, said CAT acting chief executive officer Colonel Sanpachai Huvanandana.
He said a working committee for the project would be set up. Whether that committee is under the Information and Communications Technology Ministry or under the Digital Economy Committee is up to the ICT minister.
The national Internet gateway is one of two priorities for making Thailand a digital hub for the region by expanding capacity and reducing costs. The other is to have large content providers such as Facebook, Google and YouTube establish servers in Thailand.
Sanpachai said getting those big players to establish servers here would entail adjustments of regulations and laws, including those on immigration. Other incentives such as tax exemptions and Board of Investment privileges would also be needed.
Meanwhile, to expand capacity and reduce costs, all international Internet gateway (IIG) providers would have to collaborate in forecasting future demand and crafting Internet network investment plans. Such collaboration would not only reduce investment duplication, it would also reduce the cost of IIG traffic, he said.
The combined current capacity of TOT’s and CAT Telecom’s IIG networks will be able to support demand for only the next five years. Thailand needs to plan now to ensure it has sufficient network capacity to support future demand.
“We have talked with some IIG service providers. We agree that the whole existing IIG network is insufficient for the future. We propose to co-invest and cooperate as a consortium, in order to increase the capability of IIG network investment and management as well as to reduce the cost of investment. It eventually will reduce consumers’ Internet costs,” Sanpachai said.
He said Thailand now had around 2 terabytes of outbound international Internet traffic, which is growing by 80 per cent annually. Within five years, it is forecast that Thailand will have 50TB of outbound international Internet traffic. Given their current maximum capacity, CAT and TOT can handle that amount of traffic for only the next five years.
“The national Internet gateway is a part of the country’s digital-hub strategy. It is not aimed at consolidating all international Internet traffic through a single gateway to control Internet content, as people understand,” Sanpachai said.
The strategy to make the country a digital hub is divided into three phases. The first phase is to support digital start-ups and attract digital-content providers to invest in Thailand.
The second phase is to increase IIG capability, especially via submarine cable, possible through investing in a new one or expanding the existing network. The third phase is to establish a digital innovation park in order to build a digital business and service ecosystem in Thailand.
ICT Minister Uttama Savayana said TOT and CAT would need to discuss implementing some of the projects together, including those involving international undersea cables and nationwide underground cables.
Suphachai Chearavanont, president of the Telecommunications Association of Thailand, said that to transform the country into a regional digital hub it would be necessary to create land-based cable links connecting Thailand with Myanmar, Laos, China and India. In the Southern region, the country should establish a similar link with Indonesia.
Internet Thailand (INET) managing director Morragot Kulatumyotin said having a national Internet gateway along with having large content providers establish their servers in Thailand would benefit the country a lot. As an Internet service provider, she said, INET now buys IIG traffic from four service providers: CAT Telecom, TOT, JasTel and True. CAT and TOT each have a 16 per cent share in INET.
“It would be good to have better prices for IIG services, which would reduce the cost of the Internet for end-users as well. But the concern is to maintain quality,” Morragot said.