By SIRIVISH TOOMGUM
“With machines and humans being more and more interconnected, Thai consumers and businesses will continue to experience change,” Alexandra Reich, chief executive officer of Total Access Communication (DTAC), said.
“Mobile communication has had a substantially positive impact on the economic and social development of Thailand and we are optimistic that it will continue to improve our well-being as a nation,” said Reich.
Artificial intelligence (AI) in a data-rich and connected world will continue to stimulate innovation and product development with new usage and monetisation, she added.
There are still many untapped opportunities for business, especially SMEs, to digitalise their business and operations using the cloud, machine learning, internet of things (IoT) connectivity and mobile applications, she said.
“This will not only drive productivity but also enrich offerings and improve customers’ experiences. Consumers will be able to embrace new experiences with augmented and virtual realities, have access to billions of people seeing their content, and live through shared experiences across borders with low latency networks and simultaneous translation.”
Reich said connectivity is the core enabler for these innovations and the demand for quality services will increase as they become critical for people and businesses.
However, there is danger if the human touch gets lost in this fast-paced digital development.
The threats are real but telecom operators, government and businesses can work together to mitigate them, she said.
“We need to be careful about how many hours we watch our mobile phones and how we value privacy. We need to be conscious that a connected world can amplify the good voices but also the bad.
“We need to protect our citizens against cyberattacks and identity theft. Most importantly, we need a well-managed transition, as the digital economy also comes with a change in job profiles and capabilities. Also, we need to not only continuously educate our kids, but also the adult population,” she said.
Benefits of the 5G wireless broadband will take a number of years before being fully exploited.
“While we are seeing 5G deployments in 2019, most analysts believe that it could take three to five years to build the ecosystems and the new use-cases that will be valued by businesses and consumers,” she explained.
”It will be a learning curve on how to drive value for the respective stakeholders. The biggest change will come as we will see a structural change in a lot of business models leading to a more collaborative approach across industries,” Reich said.
The growing data consumption, especially for processing, as well as virtualisation, will at some point lead to the next generation of network – 6G. 6G will require more spectrum, more energy efficiency and probably work even faster.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has granted 700MHz licences to the three telecom operators – DTAC, Advanced Info Service (AIS), and True Corp for the development of 5G service on this band. Terms of the licence will become valid next October and the NBTC also plans to allocate additional new spectrum bands in preparation for the launch.
Nadine Allen, president and country manager of Ericsson (Thailand) Ltd, said 5G is not just another G.
“Previous [network] generations were centred around consumer and personal communications. With 5G, we are on the threshold of a global technology shift, which will bring about new opportunities, new efficiencies and new business models. 5G will enable consumers to capture the full value of connectivity,” said Allen.
“Consumers in Thailand are already waiting for 5G. According to Ericsson’s ConsumerLab Report, one in two smartphone users will switch mobile operators within six months if their original operator does not provide 5G, providing operators with a first mover advantage.”
According to the report, 5G is a platform for innovation and a game-changer. With ultra-fast connectivity speeds and low latency rates, 5G will transform industries and enable the future of smart cities.
“With game-changing capabilities, we believe that 5G has the potential to enable mobile communications networks to be an important and critical part of national infrastructure,” said the report.
5G-related use cases could range from connected robotics, healthcare and smart manufacturing, to connected homes, and give rise to endless possibilities as well as new opportunities to innovate on a broader scale.
“Beyond 5G, Ericsson is also constantly innovating in the next wave of technologies. For example, we have an Accelerator innovation hub in Canada to focus on R&D in AI and automation as it will be a key trend in the future. In fact, innovation is in Ericsson’s DNA. Today, around 18.5 per cent of Ericsson’s annual global revenues is invested in R&D,” said Allen.
Attractive to foreign investors
For Thailand, 5G will be the enabler for the Digital Thailand 4.0 vision. In a yearly rankings recently released by the Switzerland-based IMD World Competitiveness Centre, Thailand advanced five places to 25th, propelled by an increase in foreign direct investment and productivity. 5G will further enhance the country’s competitiveness and strengthen its attractiveness for foreign investors looking for locations in a digitalised environment, she said.
AIS chief executive officer Somchai Lertsutiwong said the world is on the edge of entering the 5G era.
Moreover, there are nine other key technology trends shaping the future: big data and analytics, the cloud, artificial intelligence, blockchain, cognitive security, quantum computing, robotics, autonomous driving, and fintech. New technologies will change the world in a way that previously could only be seen in science-fiction movies.
“Thais have been called the most intensive Facebook users. We have seen many companies, especially SMEs, reaping benefits from Instagram, Line, and other online networks to grow their businesses, including online payment,” said Somchai. “However, as of today, only 65 per cent of the Thai population can access the internet, leaving more than 20 million out of the loop.”
Looking forward to the next decade, AIS expects more than 90 per cent of Thais will be using one or more telecommunication devices for convenience in life, work and doing business, he added. 5G, together with the above-mentioned technologies, will bring about a new level of applications such as virtual reality everywhere, smart autonomous-driving cars, smart homes, smart manufacturing, smart cities and many more “smarts” enabled by IoT (where everything can be connected). Business will not be the same in the 5G era.
“The major concern now is how we adapt ourselves to the future and how we prepare the next generation to be comfortable with their own future. Replaced by robots, AI and automation, many jobs will become unnecessary; many things we currently teach our children in schools and universities might be out of date,” said Somchai.
“Thailand needs to reskill its workforce and reform the educational system to ensure our competitiveness in the future. It took 10 years for the development of the 5G standard and it will take another decade for 6G. I hope it will take less time for Thailand to prepare for the changes,” he said.