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Despite uneven economic growth in recent years, an overall rise in income levels has made Thailand one of the countries contributing to the emerging global middle class. Thanks in part to these higher incomes, new groups of people are gaining access to the internet for the first time, according to a new eMarketer report, “Thailand Online: Mobile Devices Will Take the Middle Class to the Web.”
The country’s National Statistics Office (NSO) reported that within Thailand’s population of 62.9 million people ages 6 and older, internet penetration reached 26.5% in 2012, up from 18.2% in 2008.
But for broadband the figure is much lower. Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) put the country’s number of fixed broadband internet subscribers at 4.5 million as of Q2 2013, a penetration rate of about 6.7% of the population.
Thailand’s telecom industry has seen steady growth during the past few years, which has helped drive internet use throughout the country, particularly in urban areas.
While broadband penetration remains low, the government is pushing to extend accessibility, committing $2.6 billion last year to expand the fiber optic network. Its goal is to make broadband infrastructure available to 80% of the country by 2015, and 95% by 2020.
Even as the government invests in broadband infrastructure, mobile will be a key driver of internet use in Thailand.
Mobile devices have already made significant headway into the country’s consumer behavior. In its 2012 ICT survey, the NSO numbered mobile device users at 44.1 million, about 70.2% of the population. The number of mobile subscribers in Thailand is much greater, however, with the NBTC estimating the total number of mobile subscribers in Thailand to be 90 million as of Q2 2013, exceeding the total population.
With mobile phones now integrated into the behavior of many consumers in Thailand, many will soon be trading up to smartphones in order to gain access to the web. Informa reported that there were 14 million smartphone subscribers in Thailand as of Q4 2012, a 43% increase from the previous year.
The low cost of Chinese-manufactured, entry-level smartphones is also pushing smartphone uptake. GfK Thailand analysts projected that entry-level phones—defined by the company as those priced below THB5,000 ($160)—would drop in average price to about THB3,000 ($97) this year.
GfK also found that Android devices dominated smartphone sales in 2012, and were expected to do the same in 2013.
The full report, “Thailand Online: Mobile Devices Will Take the Middle Class to the Web,” also answers these key questions:
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