The telecom regulator will publish the first two regulatory drafts governing Internet of Things (IoT) devices by the end of the year, laying down guidelines for massive machine-to-machine connectivity across industrial sectors.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) set up a committee to work on two out of the five categories of regulatory frameworks for IoT-connected devices.
According to NBTC deputy secretary-general Korkij Danchaivichit, there are five categories for initial regulatory conditions: numbering and identification; spectrum and technical standards; permissions related to radio communications and competition; security and privacy; and data arrangement structure and data interoperability.
The regulations are in preparation for the expected boom in machine-to-machine connectivity, especially after 2020 when 5G wireless broadband launches commercially in some global markets.
Mr Korkij said the details of numbering usage for IoT connectivity are likely to involve a 15-digit system in compliance with the practical standards of the International Telecommunication Union.
The category of IoT numbering and identification will include standardised numbering fees, a way to register use and number portability, as well as to identify methods of IoT usage such as via IP address.
Security and privacy, as well as data arrangement structure and data interoperability, are critical issues for IoT regulation, Mr Korkij said.
Customer data should be clearly defined in the future, separating general data that could be used for optimal public benefit from what should be strictly protected as personal data.
“General data, such as the amount or duration of a customer’s mobile data usage each day, could be used to improve efficiency in some public services such as transport designation and management,” Mr Korkij said.
An NBTC subcommittee is working in parallel on the development of the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA).
The agency wants to see uniformity in customers’ data arrangement structures among telecom operators in the future, as it would make the data more easily accessible by the government “for the public’s benefit”, Mr Korkij said.
“Each operator has its own arrangement system for how it stores customer data,” he said. “The issue will become more complex once the number of connected devices explodes in the future.”
For the spectrum and technical standards of IoT usage, Mr Korkij said the NBTC approved 920-925MHz as the unlicensed spectrum range for IoT connectivity last year.
The move was to initiate a spectrum standard setting for machine-to-machine connectivity. Interested companies have applied to the NBTC for operating permission under the telecom licence Type 3 regime to provide IoT devices and services in the market, for which the commission has yet to complete regulations for the overall IoT platform.
Type 3 governs telecom operators that lack their own network and rent from others to provide service.
There are a good number of organisations and startup businesses worldwide working on improved IoT applications. This uptick is leading to a turning point in adoption of the technology, as consumers and businesses begin to appreciate the importance of the network.
The 920-925MHz frequency range is part of the ISM (industrial, scientific and medical) radio band specified for general use between various applications.
In practice, the frequency range is widely shared among RFID tags, short-range devices and low-power devices.
“The NBTC will gradually issue a series of IoT regulatory drafts before 5G tech is adopted commercially in the country to serve massive connectivity demands in the near future,” Mr Korkij said.
The NBTC’s IoT committee is chaired by secretary-general Takorn Tantasith, along with 19 other members including representatives from the Digital Economy and Society Ministry and telecom operators.
The NBTC has appointed five subcommittees to work with relevant parties to create proper regulatory conditions for each critical category.