Thailand to boost internet coverage

Posted on February 18, 2015

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Thailand’s military government plans to spend an initial 3.7 billion baht ($114 million) to make internet broadband available to most of the population as part of plans to boost the economy, a minister said on Tuesday.

Greater use of the internet and electronic commerce should help boost output at small companies and operators in the agriculture sector especially, Pornchai Rujiprapa, minister of information and communication technology (ICT), told Reuters.

Each 10 percent increase in production would boost gross domestic product (GDP) by 1.3 percentage points, or almost 150 billion baht, Pornchai said in an interview.

The move is part of the digital economy policy initiated by the military government in power since last May.

Thailand logged GDP growth of only 0.7 percent in 2014, hit by weak exports and domestic consumption after the economy stalled during months of political unrest.

Analysts say network installers and equipment providers such as Interlink Communication and Samart Telcoms should benefit from the policy.

Shares in the two companies have risen more than 20 percent in the past three months, outperforming a two percent gain in the main Thai index.

Thailand, a country where mobile penetration has hit more than 100 percent, has 35 million internet users in a population of 67 million people, with 70 percent going online for entertainment, Pornchai said. Existing internet networks are available in major cities but the ministry wants to expand coverage to remote areas in the provinces, combining the telecoms infrastructure of state companies to create a national gateway.

“In some areas in major cities, internet network capacity has exceeded demand by 30-40 percent.”

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