Feature Article

August 25, 2014

Thailand Abandons Effort to Create National Public Wi-Fi Network

Back in December 2013, Thailand had launched a program to create nationwide public Wi-Fi capabilities, but that project has been abandoned.

The national public Wi-Fi plan was intended to be part of the “Smart Thailand” initiative aiming to provide broadband Internet access to 80 percent of the population by 2016 and 95 percent of the population by 2020.

In 2012, about a third of the population could buy broadband Internet access, some have estimated.

The national Wi-Fi hotspot plan had called for 30,000 to perhaps 40,000 hotspots in operation by about 2016, and perhaps 250,000 in operation by about 2018.

The usage plan was based on assumed usage of a 2-Mbps hotspot by 15 concurrent users, logged on for 20 minutes each.

Reportedly, the project was abandoned after it failed to meet rollout deadlines. Funded by universal service funds, the remaining fund, most of the original $32 million allocated for the project, have been returned to the fund, according to Telecomasia.net.

The “Free Wi-Fi” project apparently had fallen far short of its planned deployment schedule. Whether that was because the underlying backhaul infrastructure proved insufficient, whether construction proved more difficult or whether the authorized state telecom agency charged with building the network (TOT Corp.) or supplying the backhaul (CAT Telecom) took a sluggish approach to creating such a network is not clear.

True, a Thai service provider, already by 2011 had activated 40,000 hotspots. largely in Bangkok, beginning in 2004. If the seven year period to ramp up from zero to 40,000 hotspots, largely in Bangkok, is a reasonable example of the deployment challenges, it is not surprising that a plan to create a similar-sized network in just three years fell behind schedule.

True’s mobile and broadband subscribers pay THB100 (US$3.30) per month to access the Wi-Fi network. A prepaid access option is available for customers who are not True customers, but True does not appear to market that option aggressively.

True instead sees the value of the hotspot network as a way to provide more value for its mobile and fixed network customers.

The point is that rapid construction of new Internet access networks, even those using Wi-Fi hotspots as the access mechanism, can be time-consuming and difficult endeavors, when the objective is nationwide coverage.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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