Internet Access in Thailand…
the state of things
If you are planning travel to Thailand you might be wondering about internet access here. I know I was. In fact, that was a big factor in deciding whether or not to move here or choose someplace else. I had chatted with some online friends that had been to Thailand and that told me there is plenty of access – but consistent access is another thing altogether.
There are many internet cafes available in all the major or even the minor cities. I found internet cafes in Laos even, so it’s safe to assume they are in the smallest cities in Thailand. You probably cannot find an internet cafe in a village that is located away from the city’s center. But you might if the village is big enough.
When I first traveled to Thailand I didn’t have a clue what was here and what wasn’t here. Though I wasn’t involved in any e-commerce project at the time I knew it wouldn’t be long before I was jones’ing to do another project.
The internet access here comes in many flavors. I’ll explain a little bit about each one and then explain why I use the one I do.
If you’re traveling to Thailand and will be here only a couple days or weeks and you don’t have a notebook computer with you it will be easy to find internet cafes that have internet access – broadband. Most of the places in a city are decent as they have a good plan and the internet service providers do a good job of keeping them up and running at a good speed since they are a business and are paying a few thousand baht per month to fuel all the computers in the shop. The prices for an hour vary widely. In Ubon Ratchathani in the northeast I found an internet cafe for 5 baht per hour when hours were bought in bulk. That’s the best rate I’ve found. I had to purchase 50 hours to get that rate. Anyone found cheaper?
In the tourist areas like Pattaya you might find internet access for 1 baht per minute. Usually the speeds both downloads and uploads are flying so you might be happy with this arrangement. I was when I needed to upload a couple hundred megabytes at a time. These tourist-area internet cafes cater more to tourists too – with coffee, bakery items, great flat screens, CD and DVD writers, Memory stick readers, reclining swivel chairs… just a great experience. Of course I think it should be for 1 baht per minute.
Some/most of these internet cafes have a bonus plan where if you buy 10 hours or something you’ll get a good discount off rates. The one in Pattaya I used last year was something like pay 1000 baht and get the rate reduced from 60 baht per hour to just 30 baht per hour. A nice discount, since if you know you’ll be there everyday for 4 hours you’ll use up the hours anyway.
If you live here or are staying long term – 6 months or more it might make sense for you to research the ADSL plans in your area. ADSL comes through the phone line and CAN be quite quick. TOT, TT&T and others advertise that you can get 1 mbps downloads. It’s a trick!
I signed up for it at my old home in Surat Thani and I got solid 850 kb per second. Divide that by 8 to get the number most of us are more comfortable with when talking about online speeds. I got about 100 KB per second speeds for 7-10 days after the installation was first completed. After that, the speeds died. I got regularly 7 KB per second after that first week. I was paying for 1MB service (125KB per second).
I have heard from other expats – and read, that this is the typical scenario. One week you have service… you’re happy… Soon it dies and you spend the next few months complaining until finally they either straighten it out -or you opt for another internet service provider.
Some expats DO have fast and consistent internet service and swear by one company or another for their ADSL service. So, your mileage may vary – ask others in your area what they use and if you get a chance go over to their place and test it out for yourself.
TOT has an installation fee, and a minimum contract length which for me was 6 months. I complained so much – and they saw the problem too – and they never fixed it. I ended up paying just the tax for the 4 months I had the service, as well as installation fee. My 4 month service cost something like 2000 baht, but overall service really was inconsistent and so slow I could have used my GPRS class 10 modem in my motorola mobile phone instead and paid less and got similar service.
I’ve heard that some expats use a satellite dish to receive their internet signal and overall it seems like a good connection and people are more satisfied with it than other methods… however, for a good amount of bandwidth the cost is 3-5000 baht from what I read. I am least familiar with this option and someone may correct me and I’ll update this post.
While in Surat Thani and Ubon Ratchathani I tried the dial-up service. My friend used CSLox Info and swore it was the best of the dial-up services. I tried it – and got about 7KB per second on downloads and much less (2-3KB) on uploads. It worked for checking email – but was still TOO slow for me to be happy about using it.
If you have a phone connection in your hotel room, rented room, or whatever you might want to ask the landlord if the phone line works and give it a try. You buy a plastic card at 7-11 that is for a certain number of minutes of internet access. My card was 179 baht for 10 hours of dial-up through CSLox. Instructions for my CSLOX info card were in English and Thai – so I was able to find a local dial up connection number – even in Ubon, Yasothon, and other small cities.
The service was pretty consistent – not many outages, but anytime you’re using a connection that relies on your phone line – there are outages. If your lines are new and well connected – the whole way to the phone company – you won’t have too many internet outages. If you are in an old building and are using old lines – you might have a daily or HOURLY problem with your connection. Everyone has a different story. Usually though, if the wind is blowing or it’s raining much – you can count on your phone line connected service going dead.
I’ve not used other dial-up companies for service, but there are a small handful to try if you want.
Your mobile phone.
If you are coming from a country where you have a decent mobile phone there’s a chance you might be able to use your phone for an internet connection here in Thailand. You could buy a phone here easily enough. You’d need to buy a SIM card from one of the major phone companies here – I’d recommend trying BOTH AIS and DTAC since their service varies – as I found out recently.
Buy an AIS or DTAC SIM card that allows you to access the phone and the internet. You should be able to communicate that to the person you’re buying from – or don’t buy it from that shop. Once you buy it, insert it, call the customer service number, get an English menu and operator. Tell the operator you want internet on your phone.
Currently AIS has plans for 30 hours, 50 hours, 100 hours and unlimited. Unlimited will run about 999 baht per month. Unlimited on DTAC is by the week – you must renew everyweek – but it is 266 baht for a week. At AIS for 100 hours it is 350 baht. At DTAC for one day unlimited is 40 baht.
Now, you can either use your phone for internet and stumble through pushing arrow keys or a joystick to move your cursor… or if you’re LUCKY you have a touchscreen interface that’s almost bearable. I used a touchscreen on my Motorola e680i for a year before tiring of it. I currently have a Nokia that has a joystick – and it’s killing me – I need a touchscreen.
OR, you can use your phone as a modem and connect it to your notebook computer. This is the coolest option as you have internet anywhere you go. You don’t need to sit in a internet cafe. You don’t have to be at home. You can be on the bus or a train. You can be at the beach.
Connection from your phone to your notebook should be by cable as it is most consistent and uses less battery than bluetooth – but you can do it either way. My Nokia e70 phone allows me to connect with infrared also – but that’s a last resort. I always just bring my USB to phone cable.
Your phone should have one of these two options (or both) if you want to connect to the internet in this way and surf fairly quickly.
1. A Class 10 GPRS modem. This is the minimum. I believe there are Class 12’s now which should give a nice internet speed. My Motorola had this class 10 modem and I was able to occasionally get 9-10 KB per second downloads even in Ubon. I consistently got 5 KB per second and that is the bare minimum that’s useable, but you can still check your gmail or whatever email platform you use.
2. EDGE service. Edge is like GPRS on steroids. It is much quicker and consistently faster than the regular GPRS internet service that you’ll get over your class 10 (or slower) modem. With EDGE on my Nokia I can get 12KB per second regularly and sometimes as high as 20KB per second – according to my OPERA web browser and FIRE FTP programs which tell me download speeds.
EDGE is NOT available all over Thailand but I get it in such places as Surat Thani, Ubon, Yasothon, Sisaket (sometimes) and Pattaya has it full-blown. Bangkok has it well covered and even Ko Samui has it. I’d say most or all big cities have it covered by either AIS or DTAC. Unfortunately the coverage maps on both companies sites are old and won’t do you any good. Best to ask expats that are here in person or try online forums.
My choice is to use the EDGE service on my phone as a modem.
I used AIS phone service for a long time in Thailand, until 2 days ago I decided I’d TRY DTAC and see – is there a difference in internet speeds when I use the phone as a modem…?
Yes, there IS a difference.
Previously I could not EDIT my posts at blogger.com. You might have seen mistakes in formatting and spelling on this or my other blogs and wondered – what’s up with Vern – is he slipping? Yes, he’s slipping, but there was no way to edit the pages once they were posted since my dumb AIS connection would give an error on submitting my changes in blogger. So, in order to edit blog posts once they were posted I needed to go to an internet cafe – a free broadband place I found that actually costs me more everyday than just sitting at home because I suck down espresso yen’s all day, it adds up.
So, I try this DTAC service. FIRST of all the EDGE service lights up right away. WOW. I’ve got EDGE again? COOL. Then I try all the stuff I previously couldn’t do well with the AIS connection. With the DTAC connection it does it ALL! I’m so psyched about this it prompted me to write this whole article about internet access and tell everyone that uses AIS or uses DTAC to switch and see what the difference is. I use blogger and blogger is farked with AIS. DTAC works much better. You might use WordPress or some other blogging platform or tools online that work better with one or the other.
Another cool thing about DTAC is that recently they came out with PUSHMAIL for MSN, HOTMAIL, YAHOO, and GMAIL. They will send you a text message to notify you of the new email message. If you want to read it – you can login following a link and you’ll see your email instantaneously.
Now, AIS has a form of pushmail -that I could use with my phone – but, you would need to be connected to the internet with unlimited access to have the notifications come in realtime because it requires you to be online all the time. DTAC doesn’t.
DTAC is offering this free for the next 6 months. After that they SAY it will be 30 baht per month – which is QUITE acceptable to me.
That being said, my Gmail is farked with it – not working. I’ll have to call the customer service again and try to get it going as that was the catalyst behind me trying DTAC – this cool pushmail for free on gmail. I love to know when I have email. It beats me checking every couple hours and sometimes finding an email I could have responded to hours ago.
Ok, that’s it. Hope it helps.
Oh – and for your computer you will want to bring a 3 prong electric plug adapter that brings it down to 2 prongs since most outlets in Thailand are not grounded and use only 2 prong. Notice those small electric shocks you get when you’re using electronics in Thailand? You are the ground… lol.