Work on broadband project to start soon

Construction of the national broadband network will begin next month, with all 30,000 villages lacking WiFi to be connected by mid-2017.

The Budget Bureau last week approved a budget of 15 billion baht for the two state telecom enterprises, TOT Plc and CAT Telecom, to develop the last mile of infrastructure for low-cost wireless broadband access in rural areas.

The cheap broadband internet service will offer minimum speeds of 20 megabits per second.

Col Sanpachai Huvanandana, acting president of CAT, said it planned to begin the equipment procurement process this month, and start installing broadband network in June.

CAT and TOT last month agreed upon an implementation plan to roll out the national broadband network in rural areas in tandem.

CAT will be responsible for the North and Northeast, using 45% of the investment budget. TOT, which will receive 55% of the budget, will handle the development of the national broadband network in the rest of the country.

The project will be divided into two phases, Col Sanpachai said. In the first phase, the enterprises plan to provide free wireless broadband service in public areas of each district. In the second, CAT and TOT will provide affordable tariff rates, lower than those of private mobile operators. However, the exact rates have yet to be finalised.

He said CAT Telecom would also provide fourth-generation (4G) wireless broadband service on its existing 850MHz spectrum in rural areas. TOT, meanwhile, will provide 4G on its existing 2300MHz spectrum in these areas.

Col Sanpachai said CAT hoped the project will attract other private broadband service providers to jointly develop the low-cost broadband infrastructure in order to extend service areas.

There are a total 79,000 villages in the country, 40,000 of which already have broadband internet access.

According to the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Ministry's master plan for the development of a digital economy and digital society, a minimum download speed of 4Mbps will be available in all villages, 20Mbps in all schools and community areas and 100Mbps in provincial economic zones by 2020.

Gp Capt Somsak Khaosuwan, deputy permanent secretary at the ministry, said the hard infrastructure was among the six core strategies driving the digital economy policy to raise the country's competitiveness.

Gp Capt Somsai said the master plan outlined four missions. They are improving the country's competitiveness; creating equal access to ICT for all people, especially the disadvantaged; developing a knowledge workforce; and enhancing the effectiveness of e-government services with more safety and transparency.

There are six key strategies to achieve the missions: developing hard infrastructure; developing soft infrastructure; developing service infrastructure; digital economy acceleration; developing a digital society; and developing a digital workforce.

Hard infrastructure covers the national broadband network, national broadcast facilities, satellites, spectrum frequency management, international internet gateway and submarine cables.

Soft infrastructure involves data security protection, updated cyberlaws, e-transaction platform, cybersecurity measures and human resource development.

Digital economy acceleration aims to promote digital usage among small and medium enterprises to help enhance their effectiveness in the world marketplace as well as create cooperation among industrial sectors.