dtac’s chief of Corporate Affairs on Thailand 4.0 in the post-COVID era

We met with Marcus Adaktusson, dtac’s Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, at Muteki by Mugendai. Heading well east of his original Sweden isn’t limited to his culinary choices. Mr. Adaktusson has now lived in Asia for over seven years: Bangladesh, Singapore and, for the last 10 months, Thailand. In less than a year, he has led the key teams behind some of dtac’s most defining moments, from the transition out of its 30-year spectrum concession to the subsequent spectrum auctions, the last of which included Thailand’s first 5G spectrum.

We spoke to him just as COVID-19 thrusts mobile operators once again in the spotlight, this time as a service critical to maintaining productivity in the age of social distancing. “I need a purpose to get up and go to work in the morning,” he said. “And right now, dtac’s purpose of empowering society through connectivity has never been more important to our customers and to our other stakeholders.”

That point is underscored by the spikes in data usage that followed Thailand’s March-May lockdown. From January to June 2020, traffic increased 44 percent as users flocked to apps like Zoom, Microsoft Office and LINE, quickly adopting digital solutions to remain productive despite social distancing.

“At the same time, we shouldn’t take that usage for granted. As a mobile operator, we need to prove every day why we matter and how to contribute to society,” he added. “This is what keeps me going.”

When asked how he sees the perception of the telecom industry evolve in the coming months and years, dtac’s Chief of Corporate affairs sees three major trends:

  • Renewed awareness that connectivity underpins and enables the Thai economy and that policies and regulations must pave way for this development.
  • Heightened interest in responsible business practices, including everything from consumer privacy to carbon footprints and transparent governance.
  • Changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is affecting how we work, shop and socialize.

“As our role as mobile network operator becomes more tightly woven into every aspect of life, demands from customers and stakeholders will continue to increase. To respond effectively to this, we need to stay grounded in our purpose while being able to embrace change,” Mr. Adaktusson said.

In addition to the impact of COVID-19, 2020’s other defining headline for mobile operators is undoubtedly 5G. This month, dtac was first to trial a 5G mmWave use case in Thailand, partnering with large companies to explore how 5G can power the Thailand 4.0 transformation, particularly in the Eastern Economic Corridor.

 “We view 5G as an integral part of our customer proposition going forward. This is why dtac has launched 5G on 26 GHz and plans to do so on 700 MHz as well in 2020. However, given the impact of COVID-19, we also have to make sure we provide a good data experience for all Thais, not just the ones who can get their hands on a 5G device, which is why we are rolling out massive MIMO and TDD sites that benefit everyone,” Mr. Adaktusson said.

However, Mr. Adaktusson points out that 5G cannot be implemented by mobile operators alone. Much more than for 3G and 4G, businesses and the public sector will play a large role in developing use cases for 5G.

“I understand the buzz and urgency surrounding 5G. At the same time, I believe the Covid situation has made it more important than ever to close the gap between perception and reality. Customers want to know that what they see is also what they will get. We need to offer what is relevant here and now while developing the 5G use cases which are relevant to Thai society in the long run. 5G is a marathon, not a sprint.”

In addition to dtac’s 5G spectrum on 26 GHz and 700 MHz, the company has the most mid-band TDD sites in Thailand, which allows very high-speed internet. But Mr. Adaktusson believes that Thailand will need to make more mid-band spectrum available in the 3500 MHz band.

“Releasing 3500 MHz spectrum for 5G usage is essential for Thailand to remain competitive globally on 5G. It’s the most widely adopted 5G band globally and Thai consumers and businesses should not be denied this opportunity. dtac will support NBTC [the regulator] in the ongoing industry consultation process to make it happen,” he explained.

dtac has long supported the government’s push for Thailand 4.0, a wide-ranging government initiative to kickstart Thailand’s fourth industrial revolution. And Mr. Adaktusson says dtac will continue to do so as part of its sustainability agenda, which focuses on responsible business and empowering society.

“We will see digital services and telecom services become an even more integral part of supporting society in healthcare, education and public service. There is a huge untapped potential and I want to see dtac support that positive development. We did it already during COVID. We saw it already. And I want to see more,” he said.

In achieving this, he can not only count on dtac’s support but also on that of his wife and daughter, who both love Bangkok. Coming from Singapore, the family found the Thai capital’s bustle and variety a welcome change. And while COVID-19 has made going home every six months impossible, Mr. Adaktusson is delighted to be in Thailand at this critical time.

“In more than one way, COVID-19 has changed me. It has been a reminder of what we do as a mobile operator,” he said. “And now I believe even more that what we do makes a difference.”