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2020 didn’t stop Thailand’s 5G rollout but here’s how access can improve

March 1, 2021 blog-post big-data data-analysis data-visualization geospatial open-data telecom telecommunications healthcare business development e-commerce logistics

While the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down many plans for 2020, 5G rollout has proven to be one of the few exceptions.

With 5G promising up to 20x faster download speeds and 10x lower latency compared to 4G LTE, telecom operators across the region are racing to provide 5G services to meet the growing demands of both individual consumers and industries. In 2020, 40M new users in Southeast Asia went online, bringing the region’s total up to 400M1. By enabling real-time data transfer, 5G is also expected to help accelerate digital transformation across many industries from healthcare to logistics.

Thai telcos stepped up their game and mobile internet got faster every quarter

Because of the pandemic, major service providers like Advanced Info Service (AIS) and True Corporation accelerated their rollout of 5G commercial services, starting with hospitals in Bangkok and eventually expanding coverage to all 77 provinces2 3.

While four countries in Southeast Asia have commercially available 5G services (including Singapore, the Philippines, and Malaysia4), Thailand has the largest number of 5G deployments by far. As of February 2021, over 300 locations in Thailand are tagged with 5G commercial availability5, while Singapore and the Philippines have over 30 locations each with 5G presence.

With this, Bangkok’s already fast mobile internet (second only to Singapore in the region is expected to continue improving. Ookla data shows that the average mobile download speed in Bangkok increased by 25 Mbps from Q1 to Q4 of last year!

5G rollout has been concentrated in Bangkok

While there is near-universal 5G coverage in the capital city of Bangkok, there is limited presence outside of it, particularly in rural areas.

To compare access for each tambon (local sub-district) across Thailand, we had to combine 2 sets of data: 4G coverage, which was determined using publicly accessible data from OpenCellid, and 5G coverage from data provided by Ookla.

We found that while 99% of tambons outside of Bangkok have 4G coverage, only 4.19% of these areas have 5G presence. Use the map below to check the coverage in your areas of interest!

Where to expect the next 5G rollouts

As telco operators in Thailand continue their rollouts, they must collect timely and accurate information -- from demographic data to where businesses are located -- in order to prioritize their infrastructure investments. For 5G adoption, potential users need not only upgraded technology and services in their area but also devices that are 5G compatible.

In our work with Globe Telecom in the Philippines, we created an AI-powered network demand planning tool that detects buildings using satellite imagery and predicts wealth from a wide array of external datasets such as population density and points of interest, some of which can be viewed in our GeoData Catalog.

So where should you be on the lookout for 5G rollouts in Thailand? Highly populated areas of Mueang Nonthaburi’s Tha Sai (ตำบลท่าทราย นนทบุรี) and Bang Khen (เขตบางเขน กรุงทพ) or Mueang Phuket’s Wichit (ตำบลวิชิต ภูเก็ต), where 4G technology is already present, could be great candidates for further 5G expansion.

Aside from Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam are expected to be the next countries in Southeast Asia to roll out 5G services. When you’re rolling out infrastructure or expanding your business, it always helps to understand your market better. If you want to learn more about how we can help you do that, let’s talk!


FOOTNOTES
1 The e-Conomy SEA 2020 report of Google, Temasek Holdings and Bain & Company covers Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
2Thailand leads ASEAN in 5G rollout due to pandemic”, Nikkei Asia
3AIS 5G service reaches every province”, Bangkok Post
4 As of February 2021, Malaysia’s 5G deployments on Ookla’s map are tagged as ‘Pre-release’, where “5G network hardware is in place but is currently in testing and/or not yet accessible to consumers.”
5 Ookla defines ‘Commercial Availability’ as “A 5G network is present and devices are available for consumers to purchase and use.” For more information, see Ookla’s global map of 5G deployments here.

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