THAILAND is in urgent need of a boost in the capacity of fixed-line broadband infrastructure to off-load mobile- data traffic from the increasingly congested wireless network.
Allocating more frequency bands is also vital to deal with skyrocketing demand for broadband connectivity on both fixed and mobile networks, as well as promoting the affordability and accessibility of broadband services, says the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a United Nations agency for global information and communications technology development.
A white paper released by the ITU, in collaboration with Chinese telecom equipment giant Huawei Technologies, covers broadband regulation and policy in eight Asia-Pacific countries, as well as measures to facilitate faster broadband deployment. The report covers Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.
“We selected these eight countries because of their tremendous opportunity to improve their economic performance and social prosperity via a wide range of ICT applications and innovative business models,” said Ioane Koroivuki, regional director of ITU for Asia-Pacific.
He said 2016 has been a watershed year for broadband markets with the number of broadband subscriptions encompassing over half the global population this year.
Growth in broadband penetration shows a widening gap between the developed and developing worlds.
Fixed-line broadband penetration in the eight countries fell below the global average of 46 percent. The rates in Thailand and Vietnam stand equal at 36 percent, followed by Sri Lanka with 12 percent, India 7 percent, Bangladesh 4 percent, Laos 2.5percent, Cambodia 2.5 percent and Myanmar at 2 percent.
“Wireless broadband infrastructure in the region is excellent,” Koroivuki said. “But the countries need to further upgrade and enhance their fixed-line broadband and optical networks to off-load mobile-data traffic and video-content traffic.”
The paper also urges Thai policy-makers to boost the nationwide broadband network rollout, reinforcing Thailand’s position as a hub for Asean connectivity.
Other measures like the integration of fixed-line and wireless broadband networks and the reduction of retail broadband Internet prices should be placed to enhance Internet connectivity nationwide, he added.
Koroivuki said effective strategic policy interventions are needed to promote the development of the ICT industry in the region.
Facilitating and reforming incumbent operators is also essential, or if required, new competitors should be licensed in order to secure viable and properly scaled fiber-optic network deployment.
Koroivuki added that the paper also suggested policy-makers look to identify and make spectrum available in the interests of the industry’s growth and public access. Spectrum, an essential input to the telecom industry, can be provided for 4G, 5G and fixed-line broadband.
Spurring the creation of a robust local mobile content and application industry is essential to support the development of the telecom industry and accommodate local content focused on local needs, he said.
Houlin Zhao, secretary-general of the ITU, said 148 countries have adopted a national plan or strategy for broadband development.
It is estimated it will take global investment of $450 billion in network infrastructure to connect the next 1.5 billion unconnected people worldwide by 2020.
Jin Yuzhi, vice president of Huawei Technologies for Southeast Asia, said governments should encourage telecom investment and infrastructure development, like submarine and land cables, data centers and other network development.