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24 Sep 2020

Econ Digest

Thai telecommunications operators tap into the 5G consumer market

After the 5G spectrum auction took place in early 2020, telecommunications operators have accelerated their investment in 5G networks covering all 77 provinces across the country, especially in cities that are the potential areas for 5G services, in order to compete for leadership within the realm of communication technology. The bidding price for the 5G spectrum, which is averaged at THB30 billion per operator, will drive telecommunications operators to quickly generate more revenue from the launch of 5G services to compensate for the huge investment. In the context of economic slowdown, the expansion of 5G service for the corporate segment alone may not be sufficient to create demand for 5G services. Therefore, although telecommunications operators have not yet begun to provide comprehensive 5G services, they are preparing to capture the consumer market to expand the 5G user base. KResearch believes that the expansion of the consumer market to increase 5G demand shall start with a focus on creating 5G experiences based on services that are popular and familiar to consumers, especially services related to online mobile entertainment. In 2019, the average gross revenue of telecommunications operators from mobile entertainment services was approximately THB128 per mobile entertainment user, at an increase of approximately 8% from THB110 in 2017. In the next stage, the 5G market will gradually expand into Internet of Things (IoT) services. 

 

In the first stage of launching 5G services on the consumer market, online mobile entertainment services will be the first market where consumers turn to 5G technology to enhance their entertainment experience. As online entertainment providers tend to improve the quality of their media content to high-definition, the demand for more stable and faster data transmission is rising, especially for online games that require both resolution and competition among online players. 5G technology will meet such demand better than 4G can. At present, Thailand has more than 27.8 million online game players, and the online mobile game market is worth about THB16 billion, which is regarded as a new market with the potential to expand revenue generation channels. 

 

Consumers who tend to stream videos through mobile phones, especially those who like to watch ultra high definition content, may become one of the consumer groups that switch to 5G services, as they often experience interrupted and unsmooth video quality when viewing content in public areas where the network is used intensively. In addition, some telecommunications operators provide virtual reality content (VR Content) services through 5G networks. This will be another market where operators strive to create new experiences that are different from the traditional services of the 4G era. This will not only generate revenue from stimulating the use of 5G services but will also earn additional revenue from the sale of VR headsets and charging monthly service fees for watching VR Content. 

 

KResearch expects that 5G services will expand into the market related to the Internet of Things (IoT) technology, especially smart home devices, in the next 4-5 years. At present, developed countries are still developing related technologies and services. Thailand has started to develop this technology as well, but usually only as a device with the basic function of being controlled through the internet, making it still not necessary to use 5G technology. However, as smart home technology evolves in the future and requires stable communication between multiple devices, 5G technology is expected to play a key role in the IoT market, and the expansion of the IoT market is expected to create a sustainable income stream for telecommunications operators.  

 

KResearch believes that telecommunications operators will face several important challenges at the beginning of the expansion of 5G services to the consumer market, including 5G service pricing that cannot be too high in the midst of weakening consumer purchasing power given the economic situation, and the introduction of 5G smartphones at affordable prices, such as THB10,000 baht or lower. The long-term expansion of 5G services may help telecommunications operators transform their business model from focusing on obtaining revenue through data communication services to mainly obtaining revenue through the provision of 5G services to consumers. Therefore, telecommunications operators need to develop more types of 5G services and create differentiation from 4G services by emphasizing network speed and responsiveness features as important factors to attract users in the future. 

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