Full 100% coverage is expected to be completed by the middle of next year, explained Pracha Asawateera, Southern Area Manager of Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA, based in Phuket. As such, Mr Pracha is the DEPA Area Manager for all of Southern Thailand.
“Presently, the 5G network coverage is nearly 100% on Phuket island. We plan to complete 100% coverage in the middle of 2021,” he said.
Mr Pracha expects the rollout of 5G to have a much more pronounced effect on Phuket, far beyond the commercial push of faster connection speeds for mobile phones accessing the internet.
“The 5G network will allow for much greater transfer data, and will have great influence in four key areas: tourism, safety, environment and the digital industry,” he said.
“High-speed connections will help develop existing industries, and allow new enterprises to develop entirely new industries on the island,” he added.
“For example, 5G will affect the education industry, medical care and public venues. The users who will come to depend on high-speed connections will grow over the coming years,” Mr Pracha said.
Phuket Chamber of Commerce President Thanusak Phungdet said that 5G has the potential to become a “game-changer” for the island.
“The 5G network is a huge part of Phuket’s selling point, and a game changer in Phuket,” Mr Thanusak told The Phuket News.
“5G is an essential addition for Phuket. We want 5G access to be among the top reasons for businesses to choose Phuket as a base in the whole country,” he said.
“5G can persuade global companies such as Amazon and other big start-ups to establish their regional bases here. With 5G, companies can now consider Phuket as a place to invest and set up a new base here,” Mr Thanusak added.
Although Phuket is relatively more expensive than other parts of Thailand, the island still held a strong attraction for investors now that high-speed connections are available, Mr Thanusak explained,
“Anyone who wants to run a business looks for high-end communication infrastructure, and the cost of running an operation in Phuket is cheaper than other cities or areas in Southeast Asia, such as Singapore, Penang, Hong Kong and Manila,” he said.
The rollout of 5G will also help Phuket property businesses and hotels to develop their businesses, he added.
“Once Phuket is able to provide fully dependable 5G connection speeds, this will be one of the key factors to be presented to businesses looking to invest in Phuket, and businesses will come to invest when Phuket is ready,” Mr Thanusak said.
Mr Thanusak noted that promotion of 5G access in Phuket has yet to be rolled in full to the public.
“Next year, AIS will explain more information about the 5G network for the business community,” he said.
Wirit Boon-Erb, Southern District Manager (Engineering) at Advanced Wireless Network Co Ltd, a subsidiary of AIS explained that there are currently 260 5G signal stations set up across the island.
“Currently, in terms of full area coverage, we can confirm that 80% of the geographic area of Phuket has 5G access. The only areas where there is currently no 5G coverage are forests, mountains, rural roads and some small islands.
“But the network already covers the famous beaches, such as Patong Beach, where people can connect to the 5G network quickly and easily,” Mr Wirit said.
The 5G stations in Phuket are connected to large data centres of Content Delivery Network (CDN) servers located in Hat Yai and Surat Thani, Mr Wirit added.
“The 5G network also extends to areas offshore, so people on boats, such as dive tour operators and other people operating boating activities, will have access,” Mr Wirit noted.
The 5G network does not affect and is not affected by any other networks (4G, 3G, 2G), Mr Wirit explained, as they operate at different frequencies.
“There is no speed impact on another network. The networks on 700MHz, 2,600MHz and 26GHz don’t disturb each other, they work very well,” he said.
“Once people become familiar with 5G, they will stop using the other networks,” he added.
Wikorn Kongrit, Director of Enterprise Sales Upper South of Advanced Wireless Network Co Ltd, told The Phuket News that corporate packages for 5G connectivity are designed specifically for each customer.
“We will look at different customer groups in different categories. Each group has different usage characteristics, so the AIS service network will analyse and focus on the package that is suitable for the customer,” he said.
“The 5G package offered is a specific package to suit the operator. So that means the price of the 5G package will have different service charges. It is hard to explain all the details without talking with the customer,” Mr Wikorn added.
DEPA Southern Area Manager Mr Pracha, however, said that he has already proposed that the government help subsidise packages so that start-ups and small businesses could also take advantage of the high connection speeds.
“On Nov 1, Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta visited Phuket, and I presented a proposal about assistance measures or subsidising the application of technology for digital startups to help support tourism in the digital age and promote sustainable tourism in Phuket,” Mr Wirit said.