WinWin Issue 42
Co-Group Chief Commercial Officer, True Corporation Public Company Limited
5G Innovation, Driving Business Success
-- In this era of digital technologies, we see how connectivity has brought us together to make lives easier and more productive. With 5G, we have progressed into another remarkable era marked by speed, performance and a better user experience. If we compare the growth of 5G with the previous generation technologies, we can see that 5G is the fastest growing in terms of customer adoption. While 3G took around three years to gain momentum, 4G only took around two years. On the other hand, 5G took less than a year to pick up.
Thailand is the second fastest growing 5G market among ASEAN countries, after Singapore. Thailand’s 5G has a 9.2% share of the total mobile penetration in the country, as opposed to 13.9% in Singapore. We are growing at a rapid speed thanks to the government’s efforts in delivering the benefits of 5G to the people. By the end of 2022, Thailand will have 10M 5G subscribers covering more than 85% of the population. In terms of True’s 5G expansion, we are already covering 99% of the Bangkok Metropolitan Area (BMA) and 100% of the EEC where many big industries are located. We have acquired seven frequency bands so that both 4G and 5G can be used to cover all types of use cases.
Factors that drive success of 5G in Thailand
There are five major factors driving the success of 5G in Thailand. Network is the core of everything in 5G. Early release of 5G spectrum, fast network rollout and the availability of 5G devices have all contributed to the faster adoption of 5G in the country. In addition, regulatory support and the awareness generated through marketing activities have also been credited for 5G’s growth. Comparing the growth of 4G and 5G during the first three years of launch, we can see that during the first year, 4G acquired 147K subscribers, while 5G acquired 800K subscribers. In the second year, 4G hit the 1M landmark, but 5G crossed the monumental 5M mark! Growth continued to the third year, when 4G made it to the 4.7M mark, and 5G was at 10M and is still growing. Thus, we are going through a prosperous 5G era, thanks to consistent governmental efforts in readying the network and the ecosystem for future growth.
Devices are an integral component in the 5G journey. As you can see, the market for 5G smartphones is growing very fast. In 2021, only 5% of smartphones had 5G capabilities, but this year it has grown threefold to 15%. We have the great devices from Huawei, including the Mate Xs 2 5G and the P50 series. We are also working with other leading device makers like Oppo, Samsung and Apple. Apart from these, we have our own OEM device that costs less than $200. Thus, we are in a position to deliver a 5G experience to users of different income groups in Thailand. To further encourage 5G adoption, we have launched a loyalty program called True Point. Users who acquire a certain number of points are eligible for device discounts. This was a revolutionary step as it brought customers closer to our brand and it also inspired us to deliver a superior experience to them. Moreover, we partnered with Ascend Money to offer loans and instalment facility to buyers. We need channels to help support the growth of the device ecosystem. E-commerce is the primary channel, but we also have strategic partners like 7-11, Metro and Lotus covering more than 15,000 locations across the country. This makes a well-established device ecosystem to help the country thrive in the 5G era.
Another factor driving the success of 5G is service differentiation from content fulfilment. A world of entertainment opens with 5G: HD movies, HD streaming, HD music, Premier League games, golf and tennis, and much more. Now, there is cloud gaming and other exciting applications like AR and VR. These are not future possibilities, they are a reality today. Today people don’t buy smartphones for voice calling or texting. They expect much more from their smartphones and the 5G network is driving growth for the 5G content that we offer. Industry report shows that HD video streaming is the top use case for Thai users, adopted by 57% of users after upgrading to 5G. Following this is cloud gaming at 37% and HD music streaming at 34%. VR and AR apps are also becoming commonplace, with around 30% and 26% of the new 5G users shifting to them respectively.
To deliver a more immersive and meaningful 5G journey to our customers, we have developed a content ecosystem with four wings. True 5G Exclusive is full of immersive 360o XR/VR experiences and content ranging from lifestyle, music, travel and more. True HD video streaming provides access to original, local & international live shows, music, movies and sports. True Cloud AR gaming is the platform for AR games developed in partnership with Nonvoice Metaverse, the leading platform for innovative 5G AR apps. We also have a Cloud Gaming platform that takes the PC games to mobile phones, so users will not have to worry about the high spec requirements for their PC. With 5G and Cloud, user have access to unlimited titles, delivered directly to their device, without any latency issues.
True’s strategy to drive 5G as a growth engine for businesses
Like the consumer segment, enterprise 5G users also demands robust network capabilities to deliver the guaranteed bandwidth and address the requirements for latency and reliability that different use cases have. Healthcare, for example, is one of True’s focus areas for 5G. It’s one area where large-scale innovations powered by 5G are anticipated. We also have a strong focus on education, agriculture, manufacturing and smart cities. All of these applications demand highly reliable and faster 5G network. By providing these, we can help businesses improve operational efficiency, enhance the productivity of their workforce and positively impact the overall performance of the business.
Throughout our 5G journey, we have realized that partnership plays an important role in our success. We have close relationships with many partners including Huawei. Recently, we have partnered with Huawei and NBTC, our telecommunications regulator, to develop a world-class 5G smart hospital for Siriraj, the oldest and largest hospital in Thailand. The project consists of three core components. First is multi-access edge computing that delivers fast, reliable, and secure connectivity with near zero latency. This will help serve several emergency medical applications like robot-assisted remote surgery, remote patient monitoring, emergency care and the like. Second is unmanned vehicles. In the hospital, unmanned vehicles can be very helpful for delivering medicines and documents, thereby improving the automation and efficiency of the entire system. The third one is the 5G ambulance, the most critical piece of equipment for a hospital. As soon as the patient is brought to the ambulance, the 5G-powered applications are automatically launched and put into action by checking the patient’s vitals and transmitting the patient record to the relevant department in the hospital. As soon as the patient arrives at the medical center, the team of physicians will be ready with the complete patient data and equipment required for the next step. All these and much more are possible with 5G!
Another use case worth highlighting here is the Krungthep-Apiwat Central Station project in Bang Sue. Here, the project consists of four elements. First, it’s the security system based on AI. Second, there are robots working to help people move at the station easily. Third, there are automated wheelchairs for those that need them. Lastly there is a MEC-powered computing center that enables superfast data transfer along with high levels of security and privacy.
To summarize, the success of 5G requires a collective effort from all the stakeholders in the ecosystem: the network providers, device vendors, government regulator, technology and equipment providers, and the end users. It’s an elaborate ecosystem that’s expanding at an unimaginable speed, so we need to come together and engage in fruitful collaborations and cooperation to make this 5G journey more rewarding.