The number of fourth-generation wireless users is on the rise and will dominate network service by 2022.
The number of fourth-generation (4G) wireless users will quadruple and dominate network service by 2022, underscoring the need for regulations to resolve frequency allocation issues, says a Swedish network equipment maker.
“Regulations will ensure the availability of frequency, especially the auction for 2.6GHz, supporting demand of mobile broadband services for 4G and the upcoming 5G network,” said Nadine Allen, managing director of Ericsson Thailand Ltd.
The expectation is that the number of 4G or LTE users in Thailand will grow almost twofold, reaching 30 million users this year, compared to 17 million users, or 20% of total mobile subscribers, last year.
Locally, 4G will be the dominant technology, accounting for 60% of mobile subscriptions in Thailand by 2022.
The country is expected to have over 100 million mobile subscriptions by 2022, increasing from 90 million in 2016.
Globally, there were 7.5 billion mobile subscriptions in 2016, a figure set to reach 9 billion in 2022, of which 8.3 billion will be mobile broadband users.
“Thailand is one of the world’s fastest countries in terms of 4G technology adoption, by which the migration period is faster than the 2G to 3G migration, because of more tech-savvy users and affordable mobile devices,” said Roberto Barletta, vice-president of Ericsson Thailand.
He said discussions about the 5G frequency spectrum are ongoing.
“The telecom regulator should come to a conclusion for Thailand in terms of device and roaming compatibility,” said Mr Barletta.
Ericsson expects that 5G will be available in Thailand by 2020-22, while the pilot network testing by some operators will take place in early 2017.
Regarding smartphone data traffic in Thailand, he said each user, on average, consumes 3-4GB per month. That figure is forecast to grow exponentially to 18GB by 2022.
As of February 2017, the country ranked third in Southeast Asia for smartphone app usage. Financial, mobile service providers, entertainment, lifestyle, live streaming, social and transport are among the most popular app categories.
Locally, the use of the instant messaging, browsing, video and social networks is significantly increasing.
Mr Barletta said that 5G technology will also boost the revenue stream for mobile operators as it is crucial to Internet of Things (IoT).
At present, Ericsson is working on several testing schemes for cellular IoT in Thailand, such as the collaboration between True Corporation and King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology.
The company forecasts that the number of cellular IoT devices in Southeast Asia and Oceania in 2022 will be reach 180 million units, increasing over four times from 2016.
Ms Allen said Thailand needs to create more local mobile applications, including IoT-supported applications which are used in various industries.
“The more local app usage there is, the more impact there will be on the local economy and innovation,” she said.
Mobile operators need to improve their network performance to deliver app content as millennial users will reject services when they cannot load applications fast enough. The operators also need to differentiate and have partnerships with the public and private sectors in security and data privacy, said Ms Allen.