If you’ve been reading the news lately, then I am sure you’ve heard that Thailand, like the rest of the world, is getting ready to introduce 5G to the country. But what exactly is 5G, and how beneficial will it be once in place?
5G stands for “fifth generation” of wireless technology, which is used by your phone or portable electronic device to connect to the Internet. A generation lasts approximately ten years, and the world started with 1G in 1982. Back then, the network was analog, and it was only possible to transmit voice, as in a phone call. The second generation, 2G, came to life in 1992 and improved the coverage and quality of phone calls under the standard GSM, or Global Standards for Mobile Communication. 3G began its existence in 2001 and was designed to transmit both voice and data, such as pictures through MMS and access to the Internet, with speed reaching up to 2Mbps.
4G is the current generation we live in, and while it is still possible to use a mobile phone to give a call to someone, the whole structure is based primarily for data. The current speed on 4G networks can reach up to 100Mbps, allowing us to work on the go, watch videos on YouTube and listen to our favorite songs on online radio. The three major Thai network providers, AIS, DTAC, and TrueCorp, are all providing 4G services to their customers.
How fast is 5G? Do we really need it?
The fifth generation of wireless technology will bring us speed over ten times of what we currently use, with the latest tests reaching a whooping 1.3Gbps. Imagine downloading a movie that would normally take you 30 minutes instantly, without having to wait for even a second! Of course, one can wonder if this type of speed is needed. As a regular individual, probably not, but if we look at the potential progress of society as a whole, then this new generation makes a lot of sense.
Imagine sitting in a car that has the potential to tell you, in real-time, which street is best to take to avoid the Bangkok traffic jams, with a precision that has yet to be seen in apps like Google Maps. Or imagine a doctor being able to operate a patient located thousands of kilometers away, using a computer connected to a robot that allows for extremely precise surgeries to be performed. 5G will bring its fair share of technological improvements and has become a necessity in what we call the Internet of Things.
Is Thailand ready for it?
Back in June 2019, all three major Thai operators, Advanced Info Service (AIS), Total Access Communication (DTAC) and True Corp, purchased the 700Mhz slots that were auctioned off by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC). The 700Mhz spectrum will allow to reinforce the strength of their existing 4G network, as well as to start building on the 5G infrastructure. The three slots were sold off for THB 56.4 billion, to be paid in ten installments with the next 15 years. However, a lot more still has to be done, as the 700Mhz alone will not be enough to provide the dreaming speed everyone is talking about.
The government will set up auctions to bid on the coveted 2.6Ghz and above, a frequency which will allow for record speed to be set, even though the operators will have to spend a hefty sum in building the required infrastructure, such as relays and antennas.
Their contracts effectively start in October 2020, though it would be foolish to think that 5G will be implemented right away. We believe 2022 to be a more realistic approach, considering all the developments needed.
Then, it will just be a case of ensuring that your iPhone 12 or 13 can use 5G protocols before you buy it at the future Phuket Apple store.