Thailand’s e-Commerce remains a key growth driver, with strong growth of 68% and 37% YoY in e-commerce and transport & food, making up for travel’s delayed recovery. According to the 2021 e-CONOMY SEA report, the growth of the e-commerce industry can compensate for the loss of the tourism and logistics industries due to the decrease in foreign tourists.
Thailand has seen 9M new digital consumers since the start of the pandemic in 2020 (up to H1 2021), 67% of whom are in non-metro areas. Consumption penetration is the second highest in the region, with 90% of internet users consuming digital services. 34% of digital merchants believe that they would not have survived the pandemic if not for digital platforms. Many company are also embracing digital tools to engage with their customers, with 58% expecting to increase usage of digital marketing tools in the next five years.
For individual users, convenient and high-quality broadband services are very attractive. According to a study of Resume.io (a Dutch online resume maker), Bangkok is the most attractive Asian city for digital nomads. It also ranks fourth in the world due to its convenient internet and low living costs. Resume.io also points out that the ranking of Thailand’s capital shows that Thailand is a “popular country which nomadic workers come in without hesitation after the pandemic”.
Based on the reports from OVUM and World Bank in the past five years, the result shows broadband in Thailand has made great progress since 2016, this is driven by the 4 key factors shown below.
Constant Upgrading of Broadband Networks
Statistics show Thailand increasing the investment on optical fiber networks since the 5-year master plan for the digital economy was launched, and now optical fiber networks are available in both rural and urban areas. By the end of Q4 2020, FTTH had covered over 17 million households. 90 percent of urban users enjoy 100 Mbps services, and even gigabit services are provided in some areas. In the past few years, Thailand also invested in 8 submarine cables to connect the country to the world, which makes Thailand the most strategic digital hub among the ASEAN countries.
Improvement on User Experience
User-perceived Internet access rates have significantly increased. According to Ookla’s report on HBB rate, the average download rate of Thai fixed broadband networks is 166.81 Mbps in Q4 2020, 4.6 times of that in 2016.
The number of users with 100 Mbps or higher access rates keeps increasing and has exceeded 10 million in 2020, taking up 90 percent of the total number of users. The number of users with 500 Mbps or higher access rates increased by 4 million (including upgraded and new users) compared with the end of last year.
Optimization of Broadband Use Cost
Due to the innovation technology involved in the network deployment, the fixed broadband service price of GNI per capita is continually reduce from 3.42% in 2017 to 2.83% in 2020, which is much lower the benchmark with 5% defined by ITU-T. This situation make more and more consumers can be affordable for the fixed broadband to enrich their daily life and protect their income with high speed internet during the pandemic period.
Coordinated Broadband Development in Different Regions
Thailand’s government report shows that 30,635 out of 74,987 administrative villages in the country have been covered with broadband networks. For the remaining 44,532 villages without broadband networks, Thailand’s Digital Ministry master plan of USO project which is led by NBTC and ONDE to provide broadband access with 100/50 Mbps or 30/10Mbps, the projects have promoted the construction of broadband access ports in rural areas, optical fibers already covered all the 74,987 villages and reached every school in 2020, further narrowing the digital divide.*
ICT infrastructure is the cornerstone of digital economic development, and the optical fiber network is indispensable, as a rigid demand of entire ICT infrastructure. To realize a quality of IT and cloud service, enhance the availability, and maximize computing power, Data centers inevitably account on optical fiber for interconnect to each other, then provide the applicable service to the end users. Furthermore, 5G technology evolves to the next level, it relies on a foundation of optical fiber network as well, and without a dense fiber network it will be very difficult to deploy 5G antennas and new base stations.
Thus, fiber based connectivity has been entitled as a priority ICT infrastructure by Thai government. It launched “the 20-year National Digital Economy Masterplan”, “the 5-year Digital Economy Plan” and “the 10-year Digital Economy Plan”, providing guidance on promoting network development and improving development environment. With all these efforts, Thailand witnessed the rapid development of broadband networks, and realized network development goals. This drives its technological advances, economic and social development, and the high-speed growth of the digital economy. Fiber networks have become the new engine for quality economic development.
* Data Source: NBTC and MDES (2017), USO (2017-2020)