As Thailand moves towards mainstream 5G adoption by 2025, the country needs to accelerate the 5G ecosystem, establish a strong digital infrastructure, ensure availability of more spectrum bands, and drive tech partnership and sustainability initiatives to accelerate digitalisation and support socio-economic growth, according to Swedish telecom equipment firm Ericsson.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with the Bangkok Post, Igor Maurell, head of Ericsson Thailand, said Thailand is a vibrant market for 5G where the first wave of 5G adoption is already seeing more than 15% of the population enjoying the ultra-fast network.
Thailand is heading towards the second wave of 5G subscriptions by 2025 when up to 50% of the population is expected to take up 5G, which can deliver new opportunities for the country, he said.
INTELLIGENT INFRASTRUCTURE NEEDED
However, there is still a challenge for deploying the 5G standalone (SA) network in the country.
“To build out 5G SA we require more spectrum bands for 5G,” said Mr Maurell. “The 3.5-gigahertz spectrum is fundamental to Thailand. Once it is made available, we will be able to realise the full benefits of 5G.”
5G Core is built using cloud-native technologies which allow upgrades and new functionalities to be more cost-efficiently deployed, without impacting live services. It is a reliable, flexible and programmable platform, allowing services to be flexibly designed based on customers’ specific requirements.
5G SA enables network slicing for industries. Network slicing is the ability to make dedicated bandwidths of spectrum logically and dynamically available for particular applications, including those for mobile banking, cloud gaming, augmented reality and other applications in sectors like manufacturing, auto and healthcare.
“We need core SA radio functions to realise full 5G capabilities and network slicing for consumers and enterprises,” he said.
“The next step is through our global network platform to standardise API [application programming interface] so application development can be accelerated and bring new services faster to market by exposing the unique network capabilities.”
Thailand needs a strong ecosystem for 5G, including system integrators, tech vendors, consumers and communication service providers that can support the development of new use cases in response to market needs, he said.
DATA CONSUMPTION TO SKYROCKET
Thailand is one of the leading countries in terms of mobile usage with data consumption of 25 gigabytes per subscriber per month in 2021. The usage per subscriber is expected to surge to 78.9 gigabites per month in 2025, meaning that the network needs to be expanded for more capacities, said Mr Maurell.
He said 3.5GHz spectrum will be needed to manage the forecast demand in 2025. Starting the process early is key to secure readiness and time to market towards 2023-24.
To support the mobile ecosystem and open solutions for better service and affordability, the regulator needs to make sure there are spectrum bands available for communication service providers so they can deliver affordable and quality services for consumers.
For Thailand to realise its full potential a flexible, diverse and secured digital infrastructure will be required to attract foreign investment and offer choices to industries to digitalise and stimulate productivity.
ACCELERATING THE 5G ECOSYSTEM
Ericsson is working closely with key stakeholders to drive the vision of Thailand 4.0 ecosystem.
It has also joined forces with the Thai-Swedish Chamber of Commerce to form a Connectivity Working Group with a goal to support the development of the Thailand 4.0 economic model with know-how, advocacy and investment guidance.
The working group, chaired by Mr Maurell, will cooperate as business partners with local industries and universities to enable Thailand 4.0 and realise the country’s net zero carbon emission vision by 2065 as well as establish Thailand as a connectivity hub for enterprises in the region.
Ericsson is collaborating with universities and technical colleges to empower students with ICT skills, leveraging Ericsson’s global technology and 5G leadership.
Ericsson and King Mongkut University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT) recently joined hands to educate Thai students on 5G technology. KMUTT students will be provided access to ‘Ericsson Educate’, Ericsson’s online education initiative, thereby preparing the country for Industry 4.0 and giving a boost to the digital economy.
This initiative will support Thailand’s 4.0 digital transformation by building a 5G ready workforce.
Some communication service providers estimate the doubling of energy usage to meet high traffic demand on their 4G networks even as they roll out 5G networks.
Ericsson has embraced artificial intelligence to support more intelligent networks with the reduction of energy usage by 40%, according to Mr Maurell.
The ICT sector only contributes 1.4% of global carbon emissions but it has the potential to enable a 15% reduction of carbon emissions in other sectors, such as energy, industry and transport.
“Energy consumption is set to increase dramatically if 5G is deployed in the same way as 3G and 4G were and this is an important issue to address,” he said.
Due to Ericsson’s installed base being 5G ready, the introduction of the next mobile generation gives Ericsson the opportunity to reduce the climate footprint of mobile networks.
The savings can be achieved by preparing the network with latest technology solutions, activating energy-saving software, building 5G with precision and operating site infrastructure intelligently.
“Sustainability is central to our company purpose, ways of working and strategy. Our climate action approach is integrated into our business operations and product performance. The technologies we enable can have a huge impact on more sustainable environmental, social and economic development,” Mr Maurell said.
“Ericsson sets a long-term ambition to be net zero across our value chain by 2040, working towards a first major milestone to cut emissions by 50% in the supply chain and portfolio by 2030 and be net zero in its own activities at the same time,” he said.
Ericsson has been in Thailand since 1906 when it developed the first telephone exchange in the country. Alongside customers, Ericsson pioneered 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G and now 5G in Thailand, changing the way Thai people live and communicate.
Ericsson is continuing to transform the country to a truly Digital Thailand with telecom technology as part of its commitment to ensure that Thailand realises its full potential.