Broadcasting & Telecommunications in Thailand

Information and communications technology is a key component to a nation’s economy as well as a catalyst for growth and development across all levels of society.

With a concerted push from the government and private sector, Thailand has taken strides to improve its ICT framework and infrastructure to better enable future growth and prosperity.

Two key components of Thailand’s ICT sector are broadcasting and telecommunications. These industries are regulated by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission or NBTC.

Since its establishment in 2010, the NBTC has overcome initial challenges to take its place as the fully integrated regulator of broadcasting and telecommunications in Thailand.

We oversee the broadcasting and telecommunications services. Our roles and responsibilities are stipulated under a number of acts. The primary roles related to economic aspect, which includes managing spectrum, regulating broadcasting services, and regulating telecommunication services. The secondary role relates to social aspect, which includes protecting customers from unfair practices and support R&D promotions.

Air Chief Marshal Thares Punsri, Chairman, National Broadcasting & Telecommunications Commission (NBTC)

Television in Thailand

Thai viewers have access to analogue terrestrial, digital terrestrial, and satellite television providers.

Thailand has 6 free-to-air terrestrial TV stations broadcasting across the country: BBTV, Channel 3, RTA-TV, Modernine, NBT, and Thai PBS.

Approximately 75% of Thais access television through satellite providers with the remaining 25% relying on terrestrial services.

TrueVisions UBC is the largest player in the cable television and satellite markets. The most popular satellite TV channels are owned by RS, Cartoon Club, Workpoint, GMM Z, and Mongkol.

Transition to Digital TV

Propelling the broadcasting sector ahead, the NBTC held digital TV auctions successfully and without delay in December 2013. The auctions raised a total of $1.3bn.

The move to digital will undoubtedly change the broadcasting landscape in Thailand as more broadcasters compete for viewers and advertising dollars.

Digitization will also spur large-scale investment in infrastructure, equipment, and content creation, with analysts predicting that the overall economic impact of the transition to digital TV will exceed $3bn.

At the beginning of any changes in any industry, the growth potential would be very attractive. You don’t know what’s going to happen but businessmen will always hope for the best. So I think the growth potential is the most attractive factor in this industry right now

Pornpan Techarungghaikul, COO, RS Public Company

Mobile Telecommunications in Thailand

On the telecommunications front, Thailand has experienced some difficulties modernizing the sector. However, with a now integrated regulator and cooperation from key private sector players, the country is poised to be competitive with regional neighbors on key sector metrics in the years to come.

The Thai mobile landscape is largely dominated by three operators: AIS, DTAC, and Truemove.

At 43%, the Singtel backed AIS has the largest share of the market. It's followed by Telenor backed DTAC with just over 31%, and Thailand’s newest operator, Truemove, with almost 24%.

With a competitive operator environment, the country has experienced healthy and consistent mobile subscriber growth and mobile penetration rates.

After completing the much delayed 3G mobile auctions in 2013, the telecommunications sector has gained momentum and is already looking at further upgrades and progressive measures.

An estimated 32 million subscribers made the move from 2G to 3G in 2013, representing over 33% of the total subscriber base. Hungry for faster speeds, these subscribers are already consuming large amounts of data via mobile broadband.

4G Mobile Networks

In some areas, we actually have congestion already on our 3G networks. The solution, we have to go to 4G. Specifically in the urban areas, specifically in Bangkok, if we don’t get 4G services, people will not be happy with the speeds they get going forward. So we’re very interested in working with the government in a constructive way to get 4G frequencies out there so that we can keep this level of service going.

Jon Eddy Abdullah, CEO, Total Access Communication (DTAC)

The NBTC continues to encourage more competition to drive innovation, competitive pricing, and better provision for the people of Thailand.

To maintain sector momentum and technological advancement, the NBTC plans to hold 4G spectrum auctions by the end of 2014.

Future Outlook

The looming 4G auctions and one of the world’s most socially networked societies provide an abundance of opportunities for operators, service providers, and the greater technology industry at large.

I believe in the year 2020, approximately 80-90% of the communications sector in Thailand will certainly go digital due to the fast development of technologies and high demands of the users. Therefore, NBTC are in the process of drafting a vision on Digital Community Thailand 2020 in order to prepare Thailand to be ready for the digital era and gain advantage in the fast digital world.

Air Chief Marshal Thares Punsri, Chairman, National Broadcasting & Telecommunications Commission (NBTC)