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3G services remain crippled in Thailand

Thailand is yet to roll out full 3G services and is one of the few countries in Southeast Asia without high-speed wireless internet. In contrast to countries like Laos which have full 4G access, Thailand remains locked into sub-3G speeds thanks to competing telecoms and legal issues.

Last year, a court in Thailand stopped a 3G-licensing auction after CAT, a Thai-owned telecom was ruled out of bidding due to it having no authority over the actual auction. Its next attempt at the 3G licence will be in 2012.

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Another stated-owned telecom, TOT has exclusive rights to concession based 2G services and will face an immense loss in regards to capital-generation if competing telecoms receive 3G licences.

Thailand has limited coverage of 3G, thanks to privately owned telecoms such as AIS, True and Dtac building its own 3G masts, upgrading systems and giving 3G services without an extra free despite being unofficially licensed.

A Nielsen report states that of Thailand’s 21-million internet users, 17.6-million connect to web-based services via their mobile phones. Social media services are an especially hot property, with more than 12-million users having signed up in the previous year.

Moody analyst Laura Acres further explains the Thai smartphone saying, “With smartphones and the iPhone in particular, I think you have the trend factor coming into play — it’s new, it’s hip and it’s a status symbol. People are lining up wanting to use these things but if you are going to pay the money, you want to use it for what it is designed for, you want it to be more than a fashion item. Operators must be champing at the bit to really have these platforms working.”

Commenting on the underlying causes behind the lack of 3G services in Thailand Acres said, “the whole regulatory environment is so political, with so many competing agendas. It is quite remarkable an entire industry has been stifled because of lack of a comprehensive regulatory framework.”

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