Thailand looks to further rise in ICT rankings

The availability of fourth-generation spectrum licences and the country's move to promote a "digital economy" are key factors driving the country's ICT development ranking up further, according to a senior official of the International Telecommunication Union.

Thailand's ranking for development of information and communications technology jumped to 81st last year from 91st in 2012, according to the ITU's "Measuring the Information Society Report".

In ICT use, Thailand was ranked No 1.

Ioane Koroivuki, regional director of the ITU office for Asia and the Pacific, said yesterday that this improvement reflected the auction held by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) in late 2012 for licences to provide third-generation cellular service on the 2.1-gigahertz spectrum.

Since then, the three licence winners have competed fiercely to provide 3G services nationwide.

The country's ICT development ranking could rise again this year, when it is expected to licence the 4G spectrum bands.

The government's push for a "digital economy" would also play a major role in propelling the country's ICT development ranking ever higher, he added.

According to the ITU report, which identifies key ICT developments and tracks the cost and affordability of ICT services, Denmark replaced long-time front-runner South Korea, which followed very closely.

The report's core feature is the ICT Development Index (IDI), which ranks countries' performance with regard to ICT infrastructure, use and skills.

The IDI has three sub-indices - access, use and skills - for 166 economies. Almost all improved their IDI values last year, but differences in ICT uptake and use persist.

Brahima Sanou, director of the ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau, said in the report that over the past year, the world witnessed continued growth in the uptake of ICT and this year almost 3 billion people will be using the Internet, up from 2.7 billion last year.

While the growth in mobile-cellular subscriptions is slowing as the market reaches saturation, mobile broadband remains the fastest-growing market segment at double-digit growth this year and an estimated global penetration rate of 32 per cent - four times the rate just five years earlier. International bandwidth has also grown steeply, at 45 per cent annually from 2001-13, and the developing countries' share of total international bandwidth increased from around 9 per cent in 2004 to almost 30 per cent last year.

There are still important digital divides that need to be addressed - 4.3 billion people are still not online, and 90 per cent of them live in the developing world. Fixed broadband penetration stands at 6 per cent in developing countries, compared with 27.5 per cent in developed countries, and growth rates are slowing.

Mobile broadband is growing fast, but the difference in penetration between developed and developing regions remains large at 84 per cent against 21 per cent. Increasing ICT uptake in the world's least connected countries (LCCs), which are home to some 2.5 billion people, should be the policy focus for years to come.

Services are often unaffordable for poor pockets of the population. The price of ICT services falls with better market regulation and increased competition. For example, in developing countries, fixed-broadband prices could be reduced by 10 per cent and mobile-cellular prices by 5 per cent if competition and/or the regulatory framework improved.

This year, global growth in mobile penetration will slow to a 10-year low of 2.6 per cent. In developed countries, penetration will reach 121 per cent. This year, there will be almost as many mobile-cellular subscriptions at 6.9 billion as people on Earth, more than three-quarters of them or 5.4 billion in the developing world and more than half or 3.6 billion in the Asia-Pacific region.