Installation of 5G at Krabi International Airport will make it Thailand’s 1st ‘smart airport’. Source: Shutterstock

Krabi to become first ‘smart airport’ in Thailand with 5G

  • Thailand’s aviation agencies have signed a 5G Smart Airport MoU to build 5G network and services at the country’s airports
  • Huawei & national telcos will be contributing infrastructure and expertise, starting with a pilot project at Krabi airport

The Thai government is teaming up with telecommunications juggernaut Huawei to bring 5G networking and services as a part of the nation’s ‘smart airport’ initiative, starting with Krabi airport as a pilot project.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) and the Department of Airports (DOA) have signed a 5G Smart Airport memorandum of understanding (MoU) for technical cooperation and services last week. Under the terms of the MoU, 5G technology solutions will be developed and applied to Krabi airport first, before expanding to the 28 other airports overseen by the DoA throughout the country.

Additionally, the Thai subsidiary of Huawei, known as Huawei Technologies Thailand, is also in line to sign another MoU to provide free 5G tech support, solutions, and equipment that is worth 10 million baht (approximately US$322,800) to enable the smart airport project.

NBTC secretary-general, Takorn Tanthasit, said that the installation of 5G infrastructure by Huawei and the telcos is expected to “start within a month”.

“Huawei will provide additional innovations and services at the airport for free to ensure passengers’ safety in the new normal era after the Covid-19 outbreak, such as robots that can detect passenger density in airport areas, thermal scanners, and UV treatment equipment for passengers’ luggage,” he added.

The developments mark the first 5G smart airport project undertaken on a national scale in Southeast Asia. Before the coronavirus pandemic broke out across the globe, GlobalData was forecasting the Asia Pacific (APAC) region to be the global leader in 5G applications and usage by 2024, estimating 1.14 billion APAC users would account for around 65% of worldwide 5G subscriptions within the next four years.

Installation of 5G at Krabi International Airport is expected to “start within a month”.  Pic: Shutterstock

As mobility and networking industry experts GSMA told Tech Wire Asia recently, only temporary delays are expected to 5G network rollouts this year. Even so, Thailand has taken the lead in Southeast Asia by officially becoming the first nation in the area to have commercially available 5G networks in various parts of the country.

The two biggest telco operators in Thailand that are responsible for the national 5G coverage – Advanced Info Service (AIS) and True Move Universal Communication (TUC) – will also be supplying the 5G signal coverage at the airports, starting with Krabi International Airport.

Takorn believes that the smart airport concept is necessary following the new operating procedures for travel and movement in heavily tourism-dependent Thailand, and that the signing of this MoU will help “to improve the quality of telecommunication services and safety standards in Thai airports and NBTC is hopeful that it will help promote the travel of foreign investors and tourists to Thailand when all the government’s lockdown orders are lifted.”

Deputy transport minister Thaworn Senneam added that the deal was on par with the national digital transformation strategy, and believes 5G-powered solutions can provide real-time support and help drive public confidence in health and security when it comes to travel and airport operations in he country.

Air travel is beginning to creak into action again in Southeast Asia. Low-cost regional airline AirAsia announced optimism after last week selling 41,000 seats in one day. It also launched its ‘AirAsia Unlimited Pass’ for the first time in Thailand, offering a limited number of tickets for only THB 2,999 (US$96.98) for unlimited travel across its domestic routes until the end of the year.

Chief executive of AirAsia Thailand, Santisuk Klongchaiya said: “The COVID-19 situation has significantly impacted the economy and tourism sector, especially in terms of foreign tourist spending in the nation, which has yet to return to normal.

“We expect the unlimited pass will prove very popular for value seekers,  as well as providing incredible value and convenience for our guests. This special offer for unlimited domestic travel will also provide numerous spin-off benefits to many communities, regions and across the nation as we work together to overcome this situation and get our economy back on its feet,” he said.