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Communications for Expats in Thailand

Submitted: August 2014

Thailand is a country with a largely rural population, and as such there are quite a few areas that have no mobile network coverage . However, this will only affect you if you are out exploring, as coverage in populated areas is generally good. Thailand has a relatively high mobile phone subscription penetration percentage compared to the rest of Southeast Asia, at over 140% .

Thailand’s networks work on the GSM 900 and 1800 standards (3G is on 2100), so any phone you bring with you must conform to these settings. However, keeping your home service provider is probably a bad idea, as roaming charges can be extremely high in Thailand. When you first arrive, your best choice may be to buy a prepaid SIM card. Approximately 87% of mobile subscriptions in Thailand are pre-paid, and these are available at the network providers’ stores, but can also be bought at supermarkets, tobacconists and many other stores.

Charges for local calls within Thailand are very small; about 1baht (2p) per minute. It is also possible to buy international call cards that greatly lower the cost of international calls. Once you are settled in Thailand you can investigate long-term contracts if you wish, but most expats are happy with pre-paid PAYG contracts.

There are three main network providers in Thailand:

  • AIS – their website is here, and the section for pre-paid deals is here.
  • dtac (Happy) - their website is here, and the section for pre-paid deals is here, and
  • True Move  - website (translated)

There are also some MVNO  resellers for the three main providers, for example 365 3G and i-mobile. Competition between providers means that there are a large number of different offers and prices available; so as always it pays to do some research. You will also have to decide whether you want to use the Internet on your phone; luckily the mobile phone Internet service in Thailand is quite cheap and reasonably reliable.

As mentioned earlier, network coverage can be a problem due to the uneven terrain and a limited number of masts in rural areas, but there is a useful website here which maps the phone coverage for the different providers and levels of service (4G, 3G etc). Once you have settled into your accommodation you can always ask your neighbours if there are any problems in the area, and which provider has the best coverage. However if you are living in a small village or the countryside you may find that there is only one mast available, so you will have to go with that company. Many of the companies will also sell combined mobile, internet and TV packages.

Broadband Internet based on a landline or DSL is certainly available in Thailand, but penetration rates are relatively low by European standards. As with a lot of Asia, most Thais use their mobiles for both calls and the Internet . The main landline providers in Thailand are TT&T and TOT , along with True who provide landlines and cable service under the name Truevisions. You will need to find out who is the best for your area.

If your accommodation is fitted with a cable TV connection, this can be used as a phone and internet connection as well. Satellite TV & broadband packages are also an option, which is fine if you have a pre-existing satellite dish installed, but might otherwise involve the additional expense of installation. If you shop around you should be able to find a broadband deal which suits you; there are plenty of deals which include mobile phone, TV and telephone in one package.

 

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