Thai state-owned CAT Telecom has announced that it will proceed with its ‘national internet gateway’ proposals, with the goal of making Thailand a ‘digital hub’ in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region by 2020, while elaborating that the project does not aim to monopolise, control or restrict the country’s internet traffic and online content access, as had recently been speculated in press articles. Quoted by The Nation newspaper, CAT’s acting CEO Sanpachai Huvanandana said the proposals would increase international capacity and reduce bandwidth costs, while a working committee for the project will be overseen by either the ICT Ministry or the Digital Economy Committee, pending a government decision. Sanpachai added that the internet gateway development is one of two priorities for Thailand’s regional digital hub ambitions, the other being large content providers such as Facebook, Google and YouTube establishing local servers – a move which would require adjustments to regulations and laws plus incentives such as tax exemptions and Board of Investment privileges.
A key priority of the programme is to increase international internet gateway (IIG) capability via submarine cables, possibly through investing in a new system or expanding Thailand’s existing submarine links. New terrestrial and undersea international links with Myanmar, Laos, China, India and Indonesia have been mooted. The combined current IIG capacity of CAT and sister telco TOT is projected to be able to support demand for only the next five years, according to Sanpachai, who said Thailand now has around 2Tbps of outbound international internet traffic, which is growing by 80% annually; within five years it is forecast that Thailand will have 50Tbps of outbound international internet traffic. As reported by the Bangkok Post, the acting CEO said that CAT’s six submarine routes have also reached full capacity of 10Tbps total traffic, adding that ‘Thailand needs to have an IIG capacity of at least 60 terabits per second by 2020 to serve the goal of becoming an internet connectivity hub.’ He also elaborated on CAT’s aim to reduce IP transit costs to ISPs in order to lower the cost of domestic internet services: CAT currently charges USD15 per megabit per month for transit costs of international internet connectivity, down from USD21 five years ago, but Sanpachai said the telco wants to reduce the transit cost to USD9 by 2018. The Post report notes that in comparison, Singapore’s transit cost for international internet connectivity is only USD5 per megabit per month.
Elsewhere, CAT has requested permission to establish its own 4G LTE venture by utilising a dormant 20MHz block of 1800MHz mobile spectrum which was part of the original 50MHz 2G allocation of cellco DTAC under the latter’s build-transfer-operate (BTO) concession issued by CAT, but which has never been used. The move follows a recent agreement allowing DTAC to begin developing 1800MHz LTE on its existing active 25MHz BTO spectrum allocation, whilst CAT/DTAC have also agreed to return the remaining unused 5MHz of 1800MHz spectrum to the regulator for re-auction in next month’s technology-neutral licence auction.