In 2008, the number of the Internet users in Thailand totaled 15.4 million users, rising from around 13.4 million in 2007. That figure represents 24.3 percent of our total population.Although our Internet penetration rate is almost on a par with the global average, it is far lower than that of Singapore and Malaysia. Also, there is a concentration of users in urban areas due to Internet network and technological restrictions, which affects speed and overall connectivity. The number of the Internet users is expected to rise this year.
KASIKORN RESEARCH CENTER (KResearch) forecasts that there will be around 17 million Internet users in Thailand in 2009, a YoY increase of 10 percent, which would make the Internet penetration rate 26.6 percent. This increase would likely come from lower service charges, a moderate user base and network expansion to other provinces by several Internet service providers (ISPs).
The Internet service market in 2009 is expected to experience heightened competition wherein ISPs will want to win new customers in the provinces, which still have relatively low Internet penetration rates. In urban areas, however, new marketing promotions will become more prevalent to retain customers. Most ISPs will likely also focus on access speed, leading to stable service charge.
KResearch forecasts that the Internet service market turnover in 2009 may reach THB13-THB13.5 billion – rising 8-10 percent – slightly less or close to the 10-percent growth of 2008. Amid the economic downturn, consumer purchasing power may be eroding, thus capping the growth in consumers. Nonetheless, the corporate market is still promising as the Internet is regarded as a cost-saving tool for business operations, whether large or small. Bright prospects also seem to lie ahead for the educational institution market, especially by privately-run educational institutions. Meanwhile, bandwidth prices this year will tend to fall to around THB7,000/Mbps/month, on average, down from THB10,000/Mbps/month last year, though this will likely help improve the bottom lines of ISPs.
Over the next couple of years, significant factors would include wireless Internet technology via WiMAX and 3G mobile phones. The number of wireless broadband Internet users will likely surge with the arrival of these two advanced communication infrastructural systems. Overall, the number of Internet users will increase. Meanwhile, competition will become more intense as there would then be little difference in speed between wire and wireless Internet access. End-users will eventually benefit from better service quality and lower costs.
The Internet is regarded as primary infrastructure that affects the nation, economically and socially. It can bring about new private investment, save on operating costs and foster ICT industry growth. Socially speaking, educational opportunities can be enhanced, and long-distance public health systems can be developed with the help of the Internet. The government's policy should thus focus on development and greater distribution of Internet access throughout the country through the licensing of WiMAX and 3G systems to ensure greater access to broadband Internet. Additionally, access charges should be properly controlled to be commensurate with service providers' actual operating costs.