Thailand’s national broadband network enabling affordable internet access is scheduled to be rolled out over the next 12 months.
Construction of the state-sponsored broadband infrastructure project will be jointly handled by the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Ministry and the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).
“All 70,000 villages nationwide will be able to access low-cost broadband internet service at minimum speeds of 30 megabits per second in the next 12 months,” said ICT Minister Uttama Savanayana.
The collaboration between the two state authorities is expected to be a powerful tool in implementing a digital economy and eliminating redundancy in their public telecom planning and project development, he said. The project also has the potential to bridge the digital divide.
Mr Uttama said cheap broadband internet service being offered by 2,000 community-based ICT centres under the ICT Ministry is available in almost half of the 70,000 villages in rural areas.
The national broadband network is part of the government’s policy to support the country’s hard infrastructure development, he said.
The ministry plans to increase its ICT centres providing public service to 2,300 by year-end.
Mr Uttama said he assigned the two state telecom enterprises — TOT Plc and CAT Telecom — to help it develop the last mile of infrastructure for wireless broadband access in rural areas.
The ICT Ministry has a fiscal 2015 budget of 20 billion baht to develop ICT projects and support digital economy policies.
“The ministry will work closely with the NBTC to promote all ICT-related investment and activities including infrastructure, digital content and ICT-facilitated learning communities,” he said.
NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said the telecom regulator will take responsibility for providing telecom services in remote areas to narrow the digital divide in compliance with the Frequency Allocation Act.
The regulator has built a broadband internet network in 7,000 districts nationwide. The infrastructure was built under the NBTC’s universal service obligation (USO) budget.
“We aim to provide last-mile internet access to 70,000 villages nationwide over the next 12 months,” Mr Takorn said.
The NBTC allocated a budget of 20 billion baht this year for the USO fund.
The NBTC and the ICT Ministry will jointly outline plans for development of USO projects, which are expected to be completed by June, he said.
Mr Takorn said the NBTC was on the verge of reviewing two USO projects involving construction of broadband internet infrastructure in Phitsanulok and Nong Khai that were previously suspended by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).
Mr Uttama said he will ask the national digital economy committee, chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, to allow the NBTC to continue with the projects.
TOT won USO deals worth 429 million baht from the NBTC to provide telecom services in the two provinces from 2014, but no contracts have been signed between the two parties. TOT initially planned to use its existing 2300-megahertz spectrum to provide fourth-generation service under the USO scheme.
Mr Takorn said if the NCPO approved for the two projects to go ahead, the regulator might need to review its investment and development plans with TOT.