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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs           1   August  2011

New government wants “free” Wi-fi in schools

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The new Pheu Thai-led government wants the winners of the next third-generation (3G) licence auction to make broadband and WiFi service available to schoolchildren.

The requirement will accommodate the party's One Tablet per Child policy and free WiFi under universal service obligation conditions, says Pichai Naripthaphan, a party policymaker.

Mr. Pichai, who is in the running to be the new information and communications technology (ICT) minister, said the new government was determined to start delivery of the first batch of 800,000 tablets to primary-school students nationwide next May at a cost of 4 billion baht (US$132 million). For the project to succeed, a nationwide broadband and WiFi network must be available in schools, he said.

Speeds would start at 152 Kbps.

Telecom operators would have to invest in WiFi infrastructure themselves, as free public WiFi would be funded from the universal service obligation fees that operators would pay the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) each year under new licences.

Mr. Pichai said the winning Pheu Thai would move ahead with the new 3G licence auction on the international-standard 2100-Megahertz frequency once the 11-member NBTC is formally established.

Auction terms will specify that bid winners must build broadband and WiFi infrastructure for schools nationwide, enabling schoolchildren easy access to the Internet by the tablets.

The government will also ask TOT Plc and CAT Telecom to start expanding their broadband and WiFi networks in school areas under the tablet project.

The One Tablet per Child policy is aimed at narrowing the education gap and building a better digital textbook and a dynamic curriculum.

Mr. Pichai singled out India as an example, saying the government there produces student tablets for only US$69 apiece. "Our tablets will be priced at about $100. The Education Ministry will head the project," he said.

Mr Pichai, a former deputy finance minister who has also written extensively on technology, is seen as one of three potential candidates for ICT minister. Others are Kanawat Wasinsungworn, a former ICT minister in the Thai Rak Thai government, and Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan, a former CEO of the now-defunct iTV.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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