The Ministry of Post and Telecommunications will rely on market mechanisms to decide whether the country will launch a 5G service, according to a ministry official.

The ministry’s E-Government Centre Director General, Dr Thavisak Manotham, told Vientiane Times last week that the ministry had no policy to restrict the provision of 5G service.

However, he said one of the key factors in determining whether Laos would offer 5G services was market demand. If the market demands the service, the ministry would be ready to support its provision.

A number of Asean countries including Vietnam and Thailand have begun unofficial provision of 5G services in cities. Thailand expects that full commercial 5G service will begin next year. A number of Lao people support the government in offering a 5G service because they believe the current internet speed is slow compared to neighbouring countries.

They understood that 5G would enable access to high speed internet, which would facilitate the advancement of e-commerce and technology and the country’s industrialisation.

Other telecom officials said they agreed that the internet speed in Laos would be faster if a 5G network were available. But the installation of 5G infrastructure would require a huge investment and technology upgrade.

They said the telecoms market in Laos was small as the country has a population of only 7 million. Thailand and Vietnam were in a much better position compared to Laos in terms of the provision and expansion of 5G services thanks to their much larger telecoms market.

Thailand has a population of 60 million people while Vietnam has a population of 95 million people, according to recent data. Director General of the Lao Internet Centre, Mr Keovisouk Solaphom, said recently that Laos could act as an internet land bridge thanks to its location in the centre of the Mekong region, adding that this would benefit Laos.

He said it was possible for the country to have greater access to cheaper internet because Laos could share the cost of internet infrastructure with other countries in the region. He also said the Lao government would support neighbouring countries in laying internet cables through Laos.

At present, internet cables are laid on the seabed, which is considered a detour. The establishment of an internet network through Laos would shorten internet cable expansion in the region, Mr Keovisouk said.

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