Koh Samui beautification project: Thank you Bill Gates

22 july 2016

IVL breaks down reports of billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates publicly commenting on overloaded utility poles in Bangkok and recent upgrades to wiring on Koh Samui.

Considered an eyesore by tourists and residents of Koh Samui and unfortunately found around Thailand, the issue of utility poles overloaded with a vast array of wires of various colors and thicknesses has been in the news a lot recently. The good news is, positive changes for Koh Samui and a commitment by Thailand’s largest utility company and the Thai government to a safer and more beautiful solution by the end of the decade.

While in Bangkok in late June, Microsoft co-founder and the world’s biggest philanthropist posted a photo below to his Facebook page of a messy tangle of wires outside his Bangkok hotel with the following comments,

Live Wires

Due to faulty infrastructure, many urban areas suffer from frequent blackouts and power cuts, and the electrical grid often doesn’t serve the people who need it most.

I’ve visited many cities filled with tangled wires such as those in this photo from Thailand, where people have illegally tapped into the grid on their own to get the power they need—at great personal risk.

Bill Gates is an internationally lauded business icon and technological visionary whose work as a philanthropist has touched the lives of millions. Nevertheless, Internet users, both inside and out of Thailand were quick to point out that the majority of the wires were actually low voltage telecommunications wires from various companies offering high speed Internet and Bangkok residents seldom engage in the dangerous practice of electricity theft.

Dispute the faux pas, the extra media attention did indeed spur the Thai government into action as plans to beautify the city were expedited with a completion goal of 2020 to have 127 kilometres of Bangkok’s telecommunications and electrical wires underground and out of sight.

The Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA) also felt the need to address the concerns brought to light by Mr. Gates by issuing a widely circulated graphic dispelling the incorrect information about the tangle of wires and explaining the types of wires noted on most utility poles. IVL has translated the graphic into English below.

What’s that wire on the pole?


Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA) Graphic in English

  • เสาไฟฟ้าต้นหนึ่งมีสายอะไรอยู่บ้าง -What’s that wire on the pole?
  • สาระดีๆ กับ - PEA Information
  1. สายไฟฟ้าแรงสูง High Voltage Line
  2. สายไฟฟ้าแรงต่ำ Low voltage line
  3. การสื่อสารโทรคมนาคม Telecommunications



So, what does this mean for our beloved island of Koh Samui?


Utility firms collaborate on the removal of unused wires in Chaweng. Photo from Thai Rath onlinePublic attention to the matter has also inspired a similar joint effort spearheaded by the PEA to rid Koh Samui of above ground wires.

A budget of 380 Million Baht (9759440.688 Euro) has been earmarked for the beautification project which is already underway and will affect 3.1 kilometers of wires starting from the the largest concentrated tourist area, Chaweng Beach road. The first phase is expected to be completed by year end.

Several telecommunication companies must work together to identify wires installed by each service provider that are now obsolete and remove them while assuring active lines are untouched.

Reasons for the proliferation of the wires include the prohibitive cost of putting wires underground, which is 10 times that of the traditional “add on” method and the fact that different companies were offering services to customer at various stages of Koh Samui’s digital upgrades, each renting pole space from the utilities firms that own the poles.

The telecommunications boom of recent years and the quest for higher speed Internet for both residents and tourists alike caused this mess which, ironically, was noted by Mr. Gates, champion of connectivity.

The added revenue brought by an increase in tourism means additional funds towards improving infrastructure, which IVL noted recently in an article about extra flights to Koh Samui. Smart development is not only possible but highly beneficial to both preserve the beauty of the island and make amends for unfavourable development in the past.

IVL’s signature project The Ridge took aesthetics, safety and efficiency in mind at the planning stages and made sure all electric and communication wires were all underground offering owners and guests fabulous views that were interrupted only be swaying coconut trees, not a jumble of wires.

Facts, figures and quotes in English and Thai extracted from The Bangkok Post / Mashable and Thai Rath On-line.​