Nationwide broadband expansion



Cisco Systems (Thailand) is undertaking a feasibility study into offering a Public-Private Partnership, or PPP, to the Thai Government to establish broadband nationwide. Such a move would help reduce the digital divide as well as increase productivity, said Dr Tatchapol Poshyanonoda, Managing Director of Cisco Systems (Thailand).

He added that the PPP could not only see investment in funding and equipment and revenue sharing with the government, it could also offer a BOT (Build, Operate and Transfer) model to the private sector. This would allow private companies to develop and handle the system until it is ready to be transferred to the government.

Cisco has previously initiated similar business models with Korea Telecom, StarHub in Singapore, and Maxis in Malaysia.

At present, Thailand has low broadband take-up. Data from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) showed that as of 2008, just 1.43 percent of the population had installed broadband. This figure places Thailand 75th in the world, ahead of the likes of the Philippines, India and Indonesia, but behind Vietnam, Malaysia and China.

Furthermore, the Global IT Report 2008-2009 in Network Readiness Index from the World Economic Forum showed Thailand ranks at 47, a drop from 40 in 2007-2008.

Currently the National Telecommunication Commission, or NTC, has a universal service obligation (USO) fund in which telecom operators invest to build the infrastructure in rural areas, but this is an ad hoc project, which Dr Tatchapol says demonstrates the need for a nationwide broadband master plan with a single view and policy.

He added that nationwide drive could encompass all broadband technologies, where wired or wireless, 3G, Wi-Max or fibre to the home, and the infrastructure could support many crucial Thai concerns, including tourism, OTOP and the country's position as a medical hub.

In Singapore views next-generation broadband as an important part of its Singapore iN2015 (Intelligent Nations 2015) initiative, a 10-year master plan to grow the infocomm sector.

Similarly, US President Barack Obama also has a huge economic stimulus package, with broadband rollout a major feature.

This reflects the importance of a national broadband infrastructure to a knowledge-based economy.

If Thailand can expand broadband penetration to 10 percent of population, this will boost the Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, by around 1-2 percent. A 20 percent growth may increase Thailand's GDP by 5 percent.