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What is the future of 3G in Thailand?

3G in Thailand

Despite going without 3G connectivity, Thailand mobile services sector is a highly competitive and mature market with only 3 major players capturing more than 90% of the overall subscriber base. The kingdom is among countries with the highest mobile penetration rate in the region, surpassing Japan and Korea. At the end of 2010, according to Thai regulator, the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC), there are over 70 million mobile subscribers, reflecting 107.1% mobile penetration rate.

Source: BMI, 2011

Mobile services market will continue to out-perform the country economic growth. The industry performance is forecasted to be positive, with 5.1% CAGR from 2011-2015 in subscriber base. Still, number of 3G phone subscribers in 2010 only accounted for 0.1% of the overall number of subscribers. But with the modernization of the network, the number of 3G subscribers is expected to account  for 10.9% of the overall market with more than 82.3% CAGR from 2011-2015 in 3G customer base.


Source: BMI, 2011

Faster connectivity and higher bandwidth from utilization of new spectrums will open doors for various telephony services and encourage more development in mobile content and other value-added services (VAS). This will bring opportunity to players in the ecosystem; operators, mobile device vendors, software and application developers alike.

In Thailand, 3G telephony is expected to spark opportunities to increase operators’ revenue from higher usage of non-voice services and encourage growth in mobile content and other services, but turbulences in commercial license auction of 2.1 GHz spectrums have placed obstacles for mobile operators to benefit from the market’s high potential growth. After more than a year of delayed auction, confusion in regulatory and legal framework forces mobile operators to re-think their strategy and investment plans for 3G network roll-out.

With fast approaching expiration of concession between major operators and stage-owned enterprises, operators are forced to put their bets in uncertainty of 3G license auction and need to come up with solutions to solve the growing demand for mobile data and bandwidth problems. Operators are forced to upgrade parts of their existing networks to 3G telephony by recycling 900 MHz and 850 MHz spectrums. However, the birth of this “Hybrid 3G Network” is only a short-term solution for operators, due to constraint in bandwidth and the network is different from ITU 3G international standards.

The future of 3G network in Thailand is an uncertain one. Although the country is abundant with opportunity for players in telecommunication sector, the lack of 3G services will continue to hinder industry growth and investment. The latest development from the newly appointed regulator, Office of National Broadcasting and Telecommunication commission (NBTC), is that the auction for commercial 3G license will take place by 2012. However, the big question for operators is where to focus the investment weather on the new infrastructure for the new official 3G services or expanding the current “Hybrid 3G Network”.


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This entry was posted on October 10, 2011 by in Asia Innovation Consulting.
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