Airports to host 5G service by next May

NBTC, AoT scheduled to ink deal on Nov 27

This article was originally found on Bangkok Post.

Commercial 5G wireless broadband service is to be launched at Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports by May 2020 as the first sites for ultra-fast wireless internet adoption in the country, says the telecom regulator.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) plans to sign a memorandum of understanding with Airports of Thailand on Nov 27 for collaboration to facilitate infrastructure preparation for mobile operators to deploy 5G networks at the airports.

The NBTC has announced that the 5G spectrum licence auctions will be held on Feb 16, 2020. NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said the 5G spectrum bidders will be pushed to consider the two airports as a first priority for 5G adoption, rather than the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), which is not ready for 5G service among vertical industries.

"The two international airports will serve as national gateways for 5G tech adoption in Thailand, which will provide ultra-fast wireless broadband service to visitors once they arrive," Mr Takorn said.

Several use cases for 5G tech will be developed at the two airports, particularly in airport operations, ranging from face-recognition tech to smart security, from smart logistics to a smart hospital, as well as transport, he said.

The EEC project is a good location for 5G adoption to cater to vertical industries gearing up for innovation adoption and to new S-curve businesses, Mr Takorn said, but "the two international airports will be the pioneer targets for adoption".

As for the telecom operators that will deploy the 5G network at the two airports, they must submit documents about their related imported equipment to the NBTC for consideration.

Apart from the two airports, mobile operators could deploy 5G tech on the 2600MHz range at four major universities that will serve as 5G testbeds in collaboration with the NBTC.

The four universities are now running the 5G testbed on the 26GHz range.

The NBTC plans to auction the 700MHz, 1800MHz, 2600MHz and 26-28GHz ranges meant for 5G networks in February.

Public feedback will be gauged about the spectrum auction plan from Nov 13 to Dec 12 via the NBTC website, while a public hearing on the issue will be conducted on Dec 3. The NBTC is also in talks with the Digital Economy and Society Ministry to recall the 3400-3700MHz range for the second batch of 5G licence auctions by 2020.

The 3400-3700MHz range, currently held by satellite service provider Thaicom Plc, is seen as the most compatible mid-range for global 5G adoption.

Mr Takorn said the 2600MHz spectrum is expected to be the most wanted range among bidders because of its status as the standard spectrum being used for commercial 5G service, particularly in China, the world's biggest market for mobile subscriptions.

He said mobile handsets compatible with the 2600MHz range are priced at about 20,000 baht each but are expected to drop to 5,000 baht during 2021-22.

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