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Intel in talks with Thailand to provide low-cost 3G

Chip giant urges Thailand to offer a low-cost prepaid mobile 3G service to low-income citizens to close the digital divide and create greater economic growth.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor
By providing low-cost 3G services and cheaper mobile devices to low-income citizens, Thailand can close the digital divide and create greater economic growth.

Intel is in discussions with the Thai government to offer a low-cost prepaid mobile 3G Internet service to low-income citizens to help close the digital divide.

The chip giant is proposing its low-cost broadband scheme with the telecom regulator National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) and telco TOT, The Bangkok Post reported on Wednesday.

According to Carlos Martinez, director at Intel World Ahead Group, a business unit of Intel, Thai citizens spend an average of US$10 for 1GB. However, for the upcoming scheme, mobile operators should provide cheaper packages tailored specially for low-income people.

"To boost broadband adoption in developing countries, wireless broadband Internet service charges should make up only 3 to 5 percent of the average monthly income of [citizens]," Martinez said.

While Thailand's household broadband penetration rate is expected to reach 22 percent this year, efforts by the government could almost double the rate to 40 percent by 2015, Martinez added.

The higher rate could increase the country's gross domestic product (GDP) by 11 percent in three years, creating economic growth worth US$38 billion, he said, adding the figure was based on the fact that every 10 percent increase in broadband penetration could contribute a 1.38 percent increase in GDP or US$4.76 billion.

Closing the digital divide is not only an economic issue but also one of the great civil rights challenges, Martinez said. Broadband can be the great equalizer, giving every Thai with an Internet connection access to a world of new opportunities, he explained.

The greater a country's online population is, the higher efficiency of its e-government services, especially in rural areas, Martinez added.

More affordable Internet-connected devices should be also offered, priced below US$200, to stimulate the country's broadband adoption, to help close the digital divide, Martinez explained.

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