The Telephone Organization of Thailand (TOT), the state-run telecoms agency, said last week it plans to install fiber optic cables to replace all copper wires nationwide by 2021, five years ahead of schedule, in a program that will boost digital networks and capabilities in support of Thailand 4.0, the national strategy to move the country towards a more innovative and higher-technology future.

TOT President Monchai Noosong said the company had allocated over $300 million to install the fiber-optic lines, but that finishing the project early would actually add a financial burden to the company because it would need to purchase new equipment sooner than scheduled to “reset transmission.”

The Thai government announced in April 2016 that it would invest over $1 billion to expand fiber optic networks to all corners of the country to “strengthen the backbone of its telecommunications networks” and enable them to handle data from all communication services. The move is part of the government’s program to ensure that all the 79,000-plus villages in the Kingdom have access to broadband internet. Recently, the government said it expects to achieve that connectivity goal by next year.

The fiber optic network would increase average data transmission speeds by about 400 percent, according to the government. Even remote villages would have minimum transmission speeds of 30 megabytes.

Last year, Thailand ranked eighth in Asia and 52nd worldwide for its average broadband internet speed, according Ookla, a network diagnostics company based in the United States.

As part of Thailand 4.0, the government has unveiled a plan to build and promote the digital economy as a vehicle for economic growth, particularly among small and medium size enterprises (SMEs), and also as a pathway for lifelong learning.

The plan calls for building digital infrastructure and using digital technology to drive the country towards more advanced development.

Its components include building a nationwide advanced broadband network, promoting a digital technology-based economy and society, creating public e-services, developing human resources competent in the digital economy and society, and creating public confidence in the use of digital technology.

The new fiber optic network would also allow TOT and other telecoms companies to issue up to 550 million new telephone numbers, 500 million of which would be mobile numbers and the rest fixed-line numbers.

Thailand has been experiencing an increasing demand for additional numbers. The government will also raise the number of digits in fixed-line numbers to 10 by inserting a “1” behind the existing “0” prefix of each number.

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