Thailand’s auction windfall to fund nationwide rural broadband

The unexpectedly high bids in Thailand’s recent round of spectrum auctions will partially fund a nationwide broadband network, the government has revealed.

After the last round of bidding for spectrum raised a record THB232.66 billion ($6.4 billion), the government has proposed an ambitious plan to connect all of the nation’s 70,000 villages with low-cost internet access with a speed of at least 30Mb/s. The project would also require some of the regulator NBTC’s universal service obligation (USO) fund, which has already been used to deliver broadband access to 7,000 villages.

State-owned operators CAT Telecom and TOT are being called upon to deliver last-mile wireless access to bring these remote villages online. The project is being overseen by the NBTC along with the ICT Ministry; the total allotted budget is THB38 billion ($1.05 billion), of which the auction windfall will provide THB20 billion ($550 million), while the remaining THB18 billion will come from the USO.

ICT Minister Uttama Savanyana announced the project, and also set out the ambitious timeframe for deploying fixed and wireless broadband to all of the country’s villages – the initiative is intended to be complete in just one year. While 27,000 villages are already connected, the project aims to upgrade both the speed and quality of these existing connections.

Thailand’s average broadband speed currently sits at around 7.4Mb/s, according to 2015’s ‘State of the Internet’ report conducted by CDN provider Akamai. This placed it 45th globally and 8th of 15 Asia countries. For comparison, global leader South Korea’s average speed was 23.6Mb/s.

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