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Thai telecom operators could see annual revenue boost of $1 billion from 5G

Sep 17. 2019
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By THE NATION

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The rollout of 5G services could boost the annual revenue of Thai telecom operators by as much as $1.1 billion (Bt33.5 billion) by 2025, according to a new study commissioned by global technology leader Cisco.

The study, conducted by management consulting firm AT Kearney, highlights that 5G promises speeds up to 50 times faster, 10 times more responsive, and much lower power connectivity than 4G.

Speed, low latency and enhanced connectivity will help telecom operators provide super-fast Internet connections that enable streaming of high-definition videos, cloud gaming and delivery of interactive augmented and virtual reality-powered content to consumers, the study said.

The technology will also help to fast-track smart cities, Industry 4.0, large-scale Internet of Things (IoT) deployments, and more. This will enable telecom operators to increase revenues both from consumers as well as enterprise clients.

Titled “5G in Asean: Reigniting Growth in Enterprise and Consumer Markets”, the study states that Thailand will be among the first few countries to roll out 5G services in 2021.

The study expects 5G penetration to be around 25 to 40 per cent in major countries in the region by 2025, with Thailand seeing 33 per cent penetration. The total number of 5G subscriptions in Asean is forecast to exceed 200 million in 2025.

“Businesses across Thailand, especially in key sectors such as manufacturing, are looking to 4IR [Fourth Industrial Revolution] technologies,” said Vatsun Thirapatarpong, managing director for Thailand and Indochina at Cisco. “The rollout of 5G services in the coming years will bring substantial benefits to enterprises. At the same time, consumers are eagerly awaiting the rollout for an enhanced experience with content consumption on their personal devices. Together, these two trends will play a key role in boosting Thailand’s economic growth in the coming years,” he added.

“The expected rollout of 5G services comes at a perfect time for telecom operators,” said Naveen Menon, president for the Asean region at Cisco. “The usage of cellular data is growing rapidly as users access an increasing amount of services and content on their personal devices. At the same time, enterprises are looking to leverage the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is underpinned by artificial intelligence, IoT, 3D printing, advanced robotics and wearables, to boost growth,” he added.

Telecom operators are likely to invest about $10 billion in the region’s 5G infrastructure by 2025, the study said.

“The rollout of 5G services will require substantial investments in technology to modernise underlying networks,” pointed out Dharmesh Malhotra, managing director for Cisco’s Service Provider business in Asean.

“Telecom operators in the region are likely to continue investing in upgrading their 4G networks and building 5G capabilities in a phased manner. This will allow 4G and 5G to operate simultaneously. Cisco is partnering with network operators in their journey to 5G rollout and is already engaged with customers in Asean on 5G transformation,” he added.

However, the study says that to unlock this potential, the region needs to address some key challenges.

Foremost among these is the slow availability of spectrum for 5G services and the resulting suboptimal network rollout.

5G will be deployed across multiple bands, with three bands likely to be important globally in the near term – low band (700 MHz), mid-band (3.5 to 4.2 GHz), and high-band on mmWave spectrum (24 to 28 GHz).

In Southeast Asia, the low band is being used for FTA TV, while the mid-band is used for satellite services.

Although mmWave bands are available, deployment will need to be combined with low-band spectrum to enable an economically viable coverage of suburban and rural areas as well as in-building access.

Consumers are excited about 5G and are willing to pay for better quality, unlike 3G and 4G technology, the study noted, warning that it would be fatal for operators to engage in a price war just to attract a higher number of subscribers in the hope they can charge them more at a later stage.

On the enterprise side, operators will need to build new capabilities and bundle enhanced connectivity with solutions and applications to help customers understand, implement, and scale up value-enhancing services. They will also have to contend with a new set of competitors that provide private networks to enterprises.

“The overall potential of 5G rollout in Asean is substantial,” said Nikolai Dobberstein, partner at AT Kearney and a lead author of the report. “However, to live up to the full potential, the region will need to address the main challenges. This will require a coordinated effort from all stakeholders – regulators, operators, and enterprises. Among the key issues that regulators would need to take the lead on are: ensuring near-term spectrum availability, fostering infrastructure sharing and nurturing the development of national cybersecurity capabilities across the region.”

In Thailand, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission is expected to release the 700 MHz spectrum on technology-neutral terms and allow licence winners to roll out 5G services in December 2020. The commission is also considering auctioning the 2.6 GHz band for 5G by 2020, according to the study.

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