Internet, including Broadband Internet ADSL and DSL

Internet in Thailand Upon Arrival

When people first arrive in Thailand, many need or want to connect to the internet immediately. High speed (broadband) internet is available almost everywhere, including fairly populous places in the outer provinces. The most common methods are:

  • Go to any of the Internet cafes all over Bangkok and all around the provinces, and either use their computers or else use your portable computer with their wireless WiFi connection or their ethernet cable. They charge by the minute or the hour, anywhere between 20 baht/hour (50 cents US) in Thai suburban areas to 100+ baht ($3) per hour in central business district shopping malls and tourist areas. Usually it's somewhere in-between. Many hotels, pubs, restaurants, cafes and other places offer free WiFi hotspots, though high end hotels often charge for it, at steep prices. I've picked up my email in taxis during red lights in some places from just picking up WiFi signals around.

  • Buy a WiFi roaming account at shopping malls and other WiFi areas where you can connect to "KSC Hotspot" or "CyberLink", and buy an account. For example, KSC Hotspot gives unlimited service for 500 baht/month. Many hotels have CyberLink where you pay per hour but can use at any CyberLink outlet in Thailand. (To get an account with True or TOT, you must have a True or TOT phone line first.)

  • As a last resort, if you are staying in a property without internet set up yet and don't want to go out, then you can use a phone line to connect to your portable computer's modem. Buy a 56K dial-up credit with one of the many local ISPs. These little cards are on sale at bookstores, some convenience stores, and IT shopping malls. You pay a few hundred baht for the card (maybe $10) and you get a phone number, username and password. The charges are usually less than 10 baut (25 cents) per hour. Alternatively, if you are renting a place, or otherwise have permission, you can use your phone company's dial-up link, and the internet bill will go onto your phone bill. Unfortunately, I have found these to be surprisingly poor in quality -- slow, with stalls, and some things don't work. The cost is higher than a prepay 56K dialup to the local ISP. You need to know the phone number to dial and the standard username and password, which are somewhere on the phone company websites (sorry) but it's easier to just call support and ask.

Internet for Long Term Stay

As the above services can be inconvenient and/or slow, longterm stay people can connect to the internet from your home or office in any of four ways:

  • Arrange a broadband ADSL or DSL connection (or ISDN or cable modem in some parts of town) -- very fast and convenient. You can set up a wireless WiFi hotspot at home or the office, or else use ethernet cable. This is the main focus of the article below.
  • Get a mobile phone cellular wireless adapter for your portable computer together with a registered account from one of the mobile phone companies. You can connect from anywhere -- home, office, in the car, on the beach, etc. However, it's not fast.
  • Get a WiFi wireless internet adapter for your portable computer, and find an apartment building, hotel, or hangout place somewhere that gives free wireless access (or else pay the high daily price to some ISPs with "hot spots" listed on their websites, typically 100 baht per day!). It's fast.
  • Plug any telephone line into your modem, and get an ISP 56K dial-up account, either by buying hours & login info from recharge cards available at shops around town (e.g., 80 hours for 800 baht), or go to an ISP with your paperwork to register a company or personal account, whereby you will be billed or can prepay any amount. Of course, slow.
  • Use your phone company's 56k modem dial-up link, whereby you will be billed on your phone bill (e.g., Telecom Asia's TA Connect), albeit poor performance.
  • Go to internet cafes or WiFi hotspots all the time.

If you need on-site help setting up your home or office internet connection (at a reasonable fee), just call me or send me an email. I've been a computer consultant doing modem and other communications since 1985, and indeed that's what brought me to Asia and Thailand in 1994, working to bring internet communications to key foreign managers in user friendly and practical ways. That stopped being my main line of work ages ago, but I still help people all the time, and one of my main motivations for becoming a consultant was to meet a wider diversity of people, organizations, and entrepreneurs, and have something good to offer. As usual, you can use the standard contact form. (I'm American, but if you prefer German, then I have a German friend who does likewise.)


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Broadband DSL / ADSL in Bangkok and provinces

If you're going to be here for long, and if you use the internet much at all, then it usually doesn't make sense to get anything except a broadband ADSL connection, which is always-on 24/7 and usually the cheapest alternative.

The only problem is the hassle for a foreigner setting this up, as it's tied to a phone line. You need to either set it up with your landlord (in their name), or else get a work permit (legal requirement to get it in your name), or else work something out with the ISP (some waive the work permit requirement in person, but it depends on the provider). Some landlords don't use internet and are in the dark ages, so you need to tell them that the cost is XXX baht per month for unlimited service and there will be no surprise bills for extra usage.

True has many outlets at shopping malls and some superstores where people pay phone bills and order internet and satellite TV service, and you can usually get everything set up there.

Broadband DSL / ADSL has become so fast AND economical in Thailand that I don't even discuss 56K modem internet until much later on this page (and that's an old writeup). The only advantage of 56K is the ease of a quick connection from home without any paperwork.

Personal ADSL prices vary from a flat fee of only 590 baht ($15) per month for individuals on 512K connections to over 10,000 baht/month ($250) for companies on very high speed connections. Most people get something in the 590 baht to 2000 baht per month range. Most are unlimited usage, flat fee agreements. True has upgraded some people for free to 1 megabit per second at the 590 baht rate. It apparently depends on where you live.

As of early 2009, True has a special of 2 megabits (2000K) for 890 baht ($27) which includes a WiFi router at no extra charge.

The prices vary, as does the performance. Every ISP must balance the number of users to the speed of their international link. If the world in general, if you want cheap, and buy from the cheapest guy in town with the best advertised deals, then you may get an ISP with an overloaded link -- they have bought a moderately fast link and stacked as many users onto it as they think they can get away with, and performance can slow to a crawl or just fail altogether at times of peak demand. What's the use of an 8192 kbps local connection inside Thailand if you need to connect to overseas websites or other links but the international link is overloaded whereby you are connected at a speed equivalent to an old 56K modem connection or worse?

The ADSL speeds offered and your actual speed will vary depending on not only your subscribed speed -- but also what part of Bangkok you are in. Some parts of Bangkok are simply faster. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If you are several relay switches away from the international link, then any of those links is a potential source of overloading or problems.

When we set up a new office on Sukhumvit 21 (Asoke) in 2006, the building required we go thru TOT (Telephone Organization of Thailand). Our DSL connection was often terrible during the business day for many months, whereby our staff couldn't get much business done. Big waste of salary time and office space, and low productivity for business progress. It was the worst for international connections, but was bad for domestic Thailand connections as well. Complaints to TOT kept rising in pitch, and finally the connection got straightened out. Even after competition by Telecom Asia cum True for 10 years, TOT probably still has the same old government monopoly management, crony promotions, and bureaucracy. Its deadwood bureaucracy cannot perform decently and is apparently rotten to the core.

We have DSL in our suburban office in Muang Thong Thani from True Corp. (formerly Telecom Asia), as do friends in the adjacent condos, and it flies. Up to 4 mbps is available here, but a friend has the 1.5 mbps (1500 Kbps) unlimited package for individuals (condo) for 1500 baht ($38) and actually gets 1 mbps throughput internationally normally. Muang Thong Thani is in a technology corridor (e.g., Software Park, Jasmine International, KSC's headquarters, others) so we're probably in one of the faster parts of town.

Likewise, in my outer suburb of Pathum Thani, I have DSL at home with True and it is fast, as it has been since 2001. The population density out here is low, but the neighborhoods are upper crust and there are good universities and high tech centers around.

On the other hand, I've received complaints about True on the Thailand Guru website.

Then again, I signed up for True WiFi on my home line, whereby around town I just find a True WiFi hotspot and I can use my username and password to log in and link to the internet. I get True connections in the shopping malls I go to, and they are fast and reliable. I got TOT WiFi via my Asoke office and it works in a particular mall but sometimes dies whereby I must log out and log in and hope. True WiFi in many malls during busy days like Sundays won't give you an IP address, but their username and password works with KSC Hotspot which usually works. True and KSC have some sort of agreement between them as of mid-2009.

My relatives in another province have ADSL by the provincial telephone service provider, TT&T, and it is surprisingly good for such a somewhat remote place without anyone else or any major business around. Other people have reported likewise.

Besides speed, I also have problems sending out email using MS Outlook using TOT and my US based server. It works fine from every True connection, whether at home, my office in Muang Thong Thani, or any mall with True WiFi. But at my Asoke office using TOT, and the TOT WiFi connection, I can send mail out only thru my Thailand server, not my US server, using MS Outlook. If I switch to Mozilla Thunderbird, however, it works on every connection, i.e., Thunderbird fixes the problem with TOT and my US server. (My US and Thailand servers are mirrors of each other and the exact same software and setup.)

Besides the monthly fee, there may be a one-time setup fee. In the early years, they would offer to bring a DSL modem to your premises and set it up for you, but now it just comes in a box with instructions. If you prefer, you can switch to your own equipment, such as WiFi instead of their ethernet modem.

Other factors in choosing a broadband service provider include the quality of their support, whether their access phone numbers get busy, the speed and reliability of their network, and how impressive their marketing material looks (I'm joking about the latter).

There are many broadband vendors in various parts of town, and because the prices and specials change frequently and sometimes dramatically, I don't maintain a table for comparison, and you'll have to inquire directly. It also depends on what part of town you are in. Some offer only cable modems. A few have only ISDN. Most offer DSL, most commonly ADSL (Asynchronous DSL, since most people download much more than they upload).

Your decision may actually be a simple one: It depends on what phone company installed your telephone line.

Generally, the Telephone Organization of Thailand (TOT) and True Corporation (formerly "TA", Telecom Asia) handle the domestic physical lines in the Bangkok region, the Communications Authority of Thailand (CAT) the international link, and the various internet service providers (ISPs) sell the packages to end users and bill you in order to arrange your True or TOT broadband line and administratively bill and service you. Outside Bangkok, Thailand Telephone & Telegraph (TT&T) may be your broadband interface, or TOT. The trunk lines reach all around Thailand, though if you live in the boonies, you may be too far away from a trunk and may need to go wireless (see the section on GPRS).

As of March 2008, TOT offers this:

    256K, "Super cyber", at 500 baht/month
    512K, "Extra cyber", at 570 baht/month
    1M, "Best cyber", at 590 baht/month (of course, it's not "best")
    1.5M, "Silver cyber", at 700 baht/month
    2M, "Gold cyber", at 1000 baht/month

True offers similar packages, but on this day in March 2008 I cannot find on their website their rates, which are similar to TOT's, though True lists speeds up to 5M (megabits per second). However, when they offered 4M, it usually was not available in the particular area of my customers, and speeds of around 2.5M were typically the maximum. The speed is for your domestic Thailand connection, not thru the shared international link, the latter of which varies during the day. You never get anywhere near maximum speed internationally.

With both, there are no startup fees, but the contract is typically 1 year and there is a penalty for early cutoff. You get a free DSL modem, normally just a cheap brand name modem with ethernet connection. If you want WiFi then you must buy your own WiFi modem.

Notably, if you plan to abusively start downloading movies on the internet every day and night, then you should read the fine print. There is usually a clause in the agreement that the ISP reserves the right to discontinue the service and renegotiate the terms of the agreement. Some have a statement which points out that excess bandwidth usage can be a basis for renegotiation of terms, or discontinuation. They give good prices and service, but they expect you to be reasonable in return.

Which ISP? Recommendations...

Thailand Guru gets a lot of requests for ISP recommendations and setup instructions. Unfortunately, this field changes rapidly, and the changes will only accelerate since the telecommunications market was finally deregulated on January 1, 2006, due to the long-scheduled WTO (World Trade Organization) requirements. Therefore, I must say that you're better off researching the latest in various forums.

I use True at both the office and my home, and they give me high speeds and excellent service. However, my office is located near where the international link comes into Thailand so that I go thru fewer switches, and my home is also located in a particularly good suburb. On the other hand, my True WiFi hotspot account is more reliable and easier in shopping malls around Bangkok than my TOT WiFi hotspot account, and I find True WiFi hotspots more commonly and with better signals.

How to Set Up A Broadband DSL Internet Connection in Thailand

If you don't have a phone line yet, then you have all the options in the world. Just contact either:

There are many ISPs in Thailand, but as of 2007, most of them still lease bandwidth from one of the two companies above.

I recommend True. Their English is better, their support is better, and True has worked well for me at both my suburban office and my home. We were forced to use TOT at our office in central Bangkok and it is terribly slow and intermittently fails, whereby all our staff often can't get work done TOT, and their support is careless. As of March 2007, we have suffered this for more than 6 months already with TOT. We have used True with very good experience for several years.

TOT has its roots as a former government monopoly, and that's pretty obvious by its website. (At the moment I'm writing this, the TOT website only partly works -- I can't find their latest telephone contact info, many graphics on home page not loading despite refreshes, always the same, and no English, with default Thai. Contrast that to True's website!)

When I've had a problem, the True support has been excellent. Good English. Troubleshooting right away, and telling me the real reason, even when it is their fault such as a particular switch down at a specific location. The people at their call center can see me connecting the instant I connect, and my information. Always caring. Please be nice and civil with these people. Sometimes you must be patient to explain your problem in English, but in the dozen or so cases I've had with customers' internet connections, the True people were very good at working to solve the problem or else explain the situation.

If you already have a phone line, then step #1 is to pick up your telephone and find out which phone company owns your telephone line. You can check your bill, or you can call your landlord, or you can try calling the "report a fault" numbers 1177 (True) or 1100 (TOT) and ask them which company owns your phone line. They should see your number on their Caller ID. If you don't know your landline phone number (as many new people reply), you can call a mobile phone number and see what phone number shows up on the screen.

If you are a renter with an existing phone line, then the broadband service will need to be ordered in the name of the landlord, and you just follow the steps below. There isn't much sense in ordering a new phone line, since one phone line can be shared by both internet and a voice phone at the same time, i.e., you can be talking on the phone at the same time you are using the internet. They will supply a phone line "splitter", which is just a little thing with 3 jacks, one in and two out.

If you want to order a new line in your own name as a foreigner, then you will need a work permit and a big deposit. It's easier to order the new line in the name of a Thai.

To order broadband as a renter, you may need: (REVISION: Many people get it easy. Depends on the ISP. You might not need to do all the following as was required in years past.)

  1. Photocopy of the "House Registration" of the owner (showing who owns the property that the service is going to)
  2. Photocopy of the Thai ID card of the owner, which they must sign
  3. Photocopy of the lease (which links the property to you)
  4. Photocopy of your passport, signed
  5. A few thousand baht handy
  6. A smile

You might want to print this document and bring it with you, too:

    I hereby authorize [your name], with [your country's] passport number _________, issued at [location], with issue date ________, and expiration date ___________________, at address ______[apartment address]_____ to apply for ADSL services from TOT Co., Ltd.

    Signed ________________________ (signed by apartment owner)
    Name ________________________ (printed, apartment owner's name)
    Date ________________________

    Witness _______________________
    Witness _______________________

It usually takes just a few days until you are connected.

After that, you can renew your account without needing to visit their office again, e.g., by depositing funds into their bank account and faxing the deposit slip with your information on it, or paying at an ATM. All this is (or should be) covered on their websites.

Notably, they usually provide a free ADSL modem. It's usually crappy, and I have stacks of those which I've replaced with a better brand I bought for just about 2000 baht. This is especially true if you plan to share your internet connection, i.e., have more than one computer using the internet. Then you have a choice between wireless and ethernet, which is beyond the scope of this article but you can email me for a consultation.

There are various speeds of service offered at different prices, starting at around 600 baht per month. I order the maximum speed, but if you are budget conscious then you should know that the speed you order is not necessarily the speed you will get for international connections, only for domestic Thailand connections.

The international link is shared among many users in Thailand, and you have not bought bandwidth on the international circuit, only bandwidth to your domestic ISP's network, whereby you share the international link with everyone on your ISP's network. In other words, you might order a 4 mbps connection and get nearly 4 mbps speed to your office elsewhere in Bangkok or Thailand, but your speed to a site in the US might be nearly the same as someone who ordered a 1 mbps connection. It will be a little bit faster, but maybe not a lot. It depends more on the ISP you choose. Actually, the ISPs can split their international link into channels, so that their high priority or high speed users can have fewer users per channel so that their speed will be higher. However, in my experience, it doesn't seem that the ISPs are putting in a lot of effort in that way.

How Fast a Speed to Order?

It is important to understand that the speed of your internet connection with your ISP is not the same as the speed you can connect to any site or server overseas.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The internet is like having pipes of different sizes, and connecting to a water pipe network. You can have a huge pipe from your house to the mains, but how fast you can pump water to a place on another continent or the other side of town depends on the size of all the pipes in-between and ALSO how much water is being pumped by other users in the network at the same moment.

If you get a 4 mbps connection to your home, that is just a 4 mbps connection to their network at your point in town. You may be able reach your office and a lot of websites at nearly 4 mbps within Bangkok, but the further away you go, the more switches you go thru, and the slower your connection could get if any particular switch or switches are overloaded.

For example, try connecting to a variety of large file download sites on the US backbone, such as video clips, shareware, x-drive, your friend's office, or wherever. Download a large file from each and see how long it takes. Every one of those sites has a very high speed connection, but the download speeds will usually vary greatly, depending on other users transferring data at the same time.

In Thailand, the biggest bottleneck is the international link in/out of Thailand.

Peak performance starts late at night.

There are some parts of Bangkok and Thailand where the internet slows down a lot during certain parts of the day when demand peaks. (The slowdown is often due to "lost packets" as the switches have no choice but to skip packets when overloaded, which causes timeouts and retransmissions.)

True and TOT state in their promotions that they offer connection speeds up to 4 mbps, but that does not mean they offer 4 mbps everywhere in Bangkok. It depends on the status of their local switching station you are connected to. You might move into a place only to find that they offer only up to 2 mbps at your location, due to their equipment or the local network conditions.

Nonetheless, anything above about 1 mbps will be approximately the same for accessing sites overseas.

You can ask them whether ordering a new phone line will give you greater speed options, as it can depend on the particular phone switching station, as perhaps your existing phone line has existed a long time and connects to an old technology switching station.

If your business absolutely needs a very fast connection, then you need to buy a leased circuit that is separate from the shared international link. It could be just 1 mbps but it will fly because you aren't sharing it with anyone else.

All True users share the True part of the international link, all TOT users share the TOT part of the international link, and then there are some spare circuits reserved for businesses. For those, you will pay tens of thousands of baht, and need a special connection to your place.

The Thailand Guru office (Export Quality Services Co., Ltd.) set up special guaranteed international bandwidth before under special arrangements with an ISP, for an international call center for service and support calls using English-speaking Thai people here in Thailand, for Voice over IP (VoIP) and web browser applications, using reserved international bandwidth, but the cost for that was 55,000 baht per month. However, browsing US websites from that customer's office in Muang Thong Thani (suburban Bangkok) was like being on the US backbone on my last visit to Seattle in the US in 2006. It just showed what's possible technically in Thailand, if the cost is worth it for your business. This link was only 1 mbps, but because we were not sharing it with any other users, it was much, MUCH faster than any 4 mbps cheap residential link I've ever seen.

WiFi Hotspots

Once you sign up for an internet account at home or the office, you can get the WiFi Hotspot add-on, by paying a small monthly charge in addition. Then, at shopping malls, Starbucks, or wherever else, you can connect. They give you a username and password for this. (However, if I try to connect from two different computers at the same time, it disconnected us both.)

I have the True WiFi add-on from my home account for only about 250 baht per month more, and TOT was kind enough to give my Asoke branch office a free TOT account (they just walked in one day and gave me a username and password). I normally use my True account, because I find True WiFi hotspots with good signals in the particular places I go.

For True, in some places you get a direct connection to True (with a nice artistic login screen). However, if you can't find True but can find KSC, then you can connect to True via KSC if you check the options in the pulldown. Sometimes it fails the first time but then connects you the second, if via the KSC login, or it may forward you to a second login.

Notably, a lot of Thailand Guru's updates are written from WiFi hotspots. For example, for this one I'm at the Starbucks in the Future Park shopping mall in Pathum Thani province.

Mobile Internet (GPRS, GSM, CDMA)

There are various ways to connect a notebook computer to the internet using the mobile phone network in Thailand -- anywhere, anytime, such as in your car's passenger seat, or out on the farm upcountry. You don't need to go searching for WiFi hotspots. The main disadvantage is that the speed is significantly slower (but still at least as good as a 56k dialup connection, often much better than 56k). You also must register a phone number with one of the mobile phone companies and enter a contract.

There are 3 options for connecting to the mobile phone network for internet:

  • Connect your mobile phone (if GPRS capable) to your computer by USB cable or Bluetooth

  • If your mobile phone doesn't support GPRS, and if you don't want to change mobile phones, then buy a GPRS computer peripheral which connects to your computer by USB or Bluetooth. Then you put your SIM card into the device, or else just buy a new SIM card (new number) for this. (However, it might be better to just buy a second mobile phone...)

  • Install a PCMCIA card into your notebook computer (such as the AirCard).

Instead of notebook computers, many friends and associates use PDAs and connect them to mobile phone company's internet link. (Opinion: I find PDAs to be convenient for their compact size and long battery life, but I don't like the small screen because it doesn't accomodate the applications I depend on such as my To-Do outliner and other applications, I much prefer a normal keyboard, and I carry a lot of data with me.)

Because I don't have much experience with PDAs, the rest of this article will be on connecting notebook computers (and desktops are practically the same).

I've known a few businesspeople with a driver and a notebook computer in their car using wireless connections on the highway, via the mobile phone companies. I've helped them since around 2004. It works well in Bangkok, and they've reported getting reliable connections and decent speeds while their driver takes them all around Thailand. None needed particularly fast connections. There are also a lot of foreigners in provinces whereby the only internet they can get (e.g., out on a farm) is by the mobile phone companies, and they are happy in general with email and ordinary web browsing.

If you don't want to figure out how to connect your mobile phone to your computer, and then set up internet service on your mobile phone, then just take your mobile phone and computer to Pantip Plaza in Bangkok (every taxi knows where it is), and on the ground level on the left side is a mobile phone shop called Suchart Phone. Go inside and tell Khun Suchart what you want. He will do it all for you. His English is good. If your mobile phone does not support internet (and if you don't want to buy a secondhand mobile from Suchart for a few thousand baht), then you can go elsewhere in Pantip Plaza for the alternative adapter discussed below.

As covered in the section on mobile phones, there are four mobile phone companies: AIS, True, DTAC, and Hutchinson. The first three are nationwide but the last -- Hutch -- is mainly in Bangkok and some major demand centers, offering special enhanced services there.

I use DTAC, partly because AIS has overbilled me before in a clearly ridiculous way but wouldn't listen to me. However, before that, I saw AIS degrade in performance in the years after its founder Thaksin Shinawatra sold it to Temasek while DTAC became a much better performer than AIS when I needed internet via mobile phone USB connection to my notebook. In early 2008, I quit using AIS for internet because DTAC had improved a lot while AIS degraded, with DTAC performance significantly and consistently better than AIS.

GPRS is the preferred method for most people, among the truly available options as of early 2009. With GPRS, you can slip in the SIM card of different providers and compare, then stick with the one which has the best signal strength in your area and the best internet performance. The disadvantage is that GPRS is limited to 40 kbps and lower, but the EDGE GPRS enhancement system is being installed in the major cities and some rural areas, which will go up to about 140 kbps. Laos and Cambodia have the slower GPRS, but Malaysia has upgraded to EDGE, so that seems to be the trend in this region of the world. GPRS is an acronym for General Radio Packet Service. EDGE means Enhanced Data rates for Global Evolution.

Upcountry, GSM has been relied on for many years longer. (GSM is General System for Mobile communications.)

Unlimited service for both is available for under 1000 baht per month, and limited hours service for much cheaper, down to less than a hundred baht. If you go overtime from your commitment, then they just charge you per minute or per hour.

Hutchinson has CDMA (called 2G or 3G) which works in many areas and is fast, and they supply a USB device which you put your SIM card into (like the Sierra Aircard), or some Hutch phones can be connected. CDMA is Code Division Multiple Access. I'm not sure if Hutch is 2G or 3G. Anyway, it's different from GPRS / EDGE. I received an email in December 2006 in which one of my longtime readers in Phuket who reported this: "It took me 8 months of calling and waiting for TOT and TTNT to get me a line in. Which never happened." Then he went to Hutchinson. "Setup is done in about 15/20 minutes in their office. When you leave their office your laptop can now access the internet in about 50% of Thailand. Bangkok is not accessible. It probably has something to do with licensing. [Mark's note: I don't believe Bangkok's not accessible, so double check with Hutchinson.] Initial setup/software is 16,000 Baht and a 1,200 Baht monthly fee. My best friend and I both signed up and it works great with only an occasional bump offline that can last from 2/3 minutes to 15/20 minutes. Both of us are very happy with the service."

If your mobile phone supports GPRS but you are having a difficult time finding a special USB cable for your particular phone model, then check to see if your mobile supports Bluetooth, as some people have just bought a Bluetooth connection for their computer at around 1000 baht. Some notebook computers have Bluetooth built in already. Some phones take a standard generic USB cable, but most of them require a USB cable for a particular range of models, for around 500 baht.

Perhaps simpler is just getting a GPRS device to connect to your computer separately from your mobile phone, and the performance might be better. The brand Solomon is considered one of the more trouble free GPRS devices which connects by USB or Bluetooth, and offers EDGE models. The prices range from about 5000 to 10,000 baht. However, for that price, you can buy a GPRS capable mobile phone, perhaps a second mobile phone (I have one for business, another private), but I don't know the price for mobile phones with the EDGE enhancement. In any case, you just put a mobile SIM card into that device.

Unregistered SIM cards off the street are fine, and then you activate GPRS according to the instructions that come with your SIM card. You do not need to register your SIM card. However, if you register it then you get better rates. For example, I first got an AIS SIM card for 300 baht, and it came with GPRS air time of 50 HOURS (i.e., 3000 minutes). After that it's 1 baht per minute (yes, big rate hike) and you buy just recharge code cards off the street or from any convenience store, or else you register the card with your billing address and get much better rates.

If you're way, way out in the boonies where there's no mobile signal (and no landline), then you can connect by satellite via a service called IPStar, a Thai owned satellite (Shin Corporation, the former Prime Minister's company). Launched (literally) in August 2005, it offers internet starting at $50/month and phone service (some PR says phone services start at as little as $2/month) anywhere from India to New Zealand using 84 tightly focused beams, as well as a compact transmission dish for consumers. The internet speed goes up to multi-megabit. It's a first in Asia for many services, and an extremely large satellite, so I'd check around for peoples' experiences. I've had reports from a small business on an island, as well as a guy in the remote mountains of northern Thailand, who both reported it works quite well for them. As with all satellite communications, there will be a slight time delay (but still less than a second in theory) due to the satellite's distance and the speed of light (most internet goes thru an underseas fiber optic ring around the world). There's also an installation fee for the satellite dish, which is only about a meter wide. (It's the Thai company's 4th satellite since 1993.)

There is also the Sierra Wireless Aircard which works with the Hutchinson network wherever it exists. I received an email in December 2006 in which one of my longtime readers in Phuket who reported this: "It took me 8 months of calling and waiting for TOT and TTNT to get me a line in. Which never happened." Then he got the Aircard for his laptop computer. "Setup is done in about 15/20 minutes in their office. When you leave their office your laptop can now access the internet in about 50% 0f Thailand. Bangkok is not accessible. It probably has something to do with licensing. Initial setup/software is 16,000 Baht and a 1,200 Baht monthly fee. My best friend and I both signed up and it works great with only an occasional bump offline that can last from 2/3 minutes to 15/20 minutes. Both of us are very happy with the service."

Installing and Troubleshooting Broadband

When you sign up for broadband, the ISP will normally send you a box with these items:

  1. a "DSL modem" or "router" (same thing, call it either one)
  2. a phone line splitter (optional, but recommended) and a couple of phone cords
  3. a sheet with your username and password
  4. a CD for installation, or else some instructions

In the box is a "line splitter" with 3 phone jacks. The jack labelled "Line" is for the cord going between your wall jack and the splitter. The jack labelled "Phone" is for the cord going to your telephone for talking and dialing (or to your fax machine if you wish). The jack labelled "Data" is for the cord going to your DSL router. If you get these mixed up, then your DSL will fail. Notably, you can speak on your phone or send/receive faxes at the same time as you are on internet (they use different frequencies over the phone line) if you use the line splitter.

The DSL modem will connect to your PC by either a USB cable or an ethernet cable or a wireless connection. You should state a preference when you order the package, and see what they are willing to offer. For a home connection, they may insist on USB. I recommend you get an ethernet or wireless based modem/router, not a USB modem/router, regardless of whether it's for just one computer or multiple PCs, even if you must go out and buy it at your own expense. USB is cheaper and often works OK most of the time, but there are problems with USB. (Internet protocols are designed for ethernet and similar protocols, but USB is problematic for both the protocol and the speed.) I use the D-Link (brand) 500-T (model) which uses ethernet, for both home and office. (At the office, I connect it to a hub for the whole office, not just one PC.) I threw out the free USB modem that the ISP sent me. The D-Link 500-T has one ethernet jack. If you have multiple computers, you might also want to consider a model with multiple ethernet jacks and use the router as a LAN hub, too (2 in 1), and they usually come with 5 ethernet ports.

If the ISP sends you an ethernet modem, it might be a cheap no-name, or a brand name sold to the ISP in bulk for cheap. However, if you use what they send you, then the software in the box will automatically configure your connection. Or, at least, it should... However, if you buy your own, then follow the instructions in that box, mainly just entering your username and password, and then changing the admin password for your modem. It's not difficult if you stray off their course.

After the modem is configured, then it will (or should) automatically connect to the ISP every time you turn it on. You don't need to dial any number. You just turn on the router and wait a couple of minutes. You can leave it on 24 hours if you want. If the link dies after a few days, then just turning it off and back on will usually re-establish the connection.

Usually, things work fine. If they fail from the start, or if they fail later, then the rest of this section is for you ...

Of course, if you are having trouble with your internet connection then you can't reach this website's help, but I get a lot of inquiries asking for help, so maybe this article will save me some work out in the field and help people get up and running more quickly, if it's printed.

"A chain is only as strong as its weakest link", and sometimes there are failures at different places at different days. In any case, here is how to isolate a problem in a step-by-step way:

First, resist the kneejerk reaction of calling your ISP. The ISPs often have low paid customer support who can confuse you, intimidate you, and lead you down the wrong roads. It's good to try them, but I suggest you try the following first. You should hope the problem is on your end, not the ISP's end, because it's easier to fix a problem yourself than to try to get someone else to fix a problem! As an expert, I can attest to the ridiculous customer support recommendations (and often expensive ones) I've received...

Check your connection that your computer is communicating with your DSL router. This is all inside your office or home and has nothing to do with the ISP. Keep the IP address of your router handy. Commonly, it's 10.0.0.2 or 10.0.0.1 or 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.1, and this is stated in the manual.

Open a "command line prompt". (This is easy, you can do it.) In Windows, this is in Start, Programs, Accessories, Command Prompt. That will give you something like c:> Then enter this command:

    ping 192.168.1.1

or whatever your router's IP address is, and you should get 4 packets sent and received ("Reply..."). If you get "Request timed out" or something like that, then your problem is internal to your home or office LAN or computer setup, not regarding your ISP. However, if you do get 4 packets send/received then go on to the next step. If you cannot ping internally, then the problem could be any of many things, and such troubleshooting is way beyond the scope of this article. I can visit and help out as a computer and networking consultant, but I don't give help over the phone. Call your ISP for telephone support.

If you don't get any responses on any addresses you try, then issue this command:

    ipconfig

That will tell you your "IP Address", "Subnet Mask" (ignore this), and "Default Gateway". If you don't have a Default Gateway, then you are not connecting to your router, which may be a cable problem or a Windows driver or configuration problem. Notably, your router's address should be nearly the same as your "IP Address" except for the last digit, e.g., if your IP Address is 192.168.1.4 then your router should be 192.168.1.1 (usually 1 or 2).

Next, after internal pinging works, try to ping sites beyond your home or office, first inside Thailand, then outside Thailand. However, you should be forewarned that some ISPs such as True filter ping commands domestically and/or thru the international link, so a ping failure does not necessarily mean a connection failure, and you should double check using your web browser for the same site, according to the examples below.

    ping www.inet.co.th

That pings the best and most reliable (by my experience) ISP in Thailand, Internet Thailand. If ping doesn't work, then open your web browser and just go to www.inet.co.th

If you cannot connect either way, either ping or by your web browser, then you have a problem with your ISP.

If you can connect to www.inet.co.th then try connecting to a site outside Thailand in order to see if the problem is the international link.

    ping www.thailandguru.com

Our site is hosted in the USA. If you can reach www.inet.co.th but cannot reach www.thailandguru.com then the problem is the international link between Thailand and the USA, which is usually due to your ISP not leasing enough international bandwidth but sometimes is beyond the responsibility of your ISP.

If you get a mix of received packets and lost packets, then it usually means that your ISP has an overloaded link somewhere between you and the site you're trying to reach. When their links get overloaded, they have no choice but to drop packets in the queue (which timeout anyway). Lost packets inside Thailand is rare, but lost packets over the international link is more common. There normally should be no lost packets at all, but "This Is Thailand" as regards standards of quality and the quasi-monopoly international link provider, so sometimes there is packet loss. During these times, I get up and take a break for awhile, because it's just too frustrating and not time efficient to do any work over the web or send/receive emails.

If trying to ping gets "...could not find host", then try this:

    ping 203.150.217.135

If you can ping the "number" but can't ping the "name", then the ISP's "Domain Name Server (DNS)" is failing. When you specify "www.inet.co.th" then your computer asks your ISP's DNS where to find www.inet.co.th and the DNS replies with an address number, which for www.inet.co.th should be something like 203.150.217.135 . Just like with a phone book or a mobile phone, everything on the internet is really just numbers, not names. You may choose "Joe" from your mobile's address book, but it will dial a number, not dial j-o-e. The internet works the same way, except the phonebook is provided by your ISP automatically (and has tens of millions of phone book entries from a.com to z.net ). This problem can be solved but is beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say that this is a problem I run into fairly often in Thailand. You can see it in your web browser on the bottom line of the window where it says "Looking up www.inet.co.th" and it should find it immediately and then switch to something else like "Waiting for www.inet.co.th" or "Tranferring data...". However, if it gets stuck on "Looking up..." then your ISP have a phonebook problem. (You can find out your domain name server by the command ipconfig and you can also change it to any nameserver in the world by making an easy manual change in Windows networking.)

Going back, if you can ping your modem/router but can't reach www.inet.co.th, then the first thing to do is check the phone line to your DSL modem, and pick up your phone and see if you have a dial tone, or if there is excessive line noise on the phone. Check your wiring first. Some line problems are fixed by going to the telephone wire connections and improving the connection, or by grounding/earthing your computer.

You can also log into your router and check your connection status. It will tell you whether you are connected or not, and your temporary IP address. If you are connected but still can't reach anywhere, try disconnecting and reconnecting, or turn your router off then back on. Showing you how to log into your router is slightly beyond the scope of this article, but I will tell you the basics here: You can log into your router using your web browser by http://192.168.1.1 or a similar numeric address as noted above. If successful, the modem/router will ask for a username and password, which might be admin and no password for starters. Check your router manual.

Once you can log into your modem/router, then you can check the status of your connection, your username and password for your ISP, and even your line quality. You can also check the log of connecting, whereby you'll see that your modem detects a DSL "carrier" (connection), then your ISP allocates a temporary IP address, and also assigns a DNS or "nameserver" or two, and some other things. Lots of cool stuff in there.

You can also go into diagnostics and check the signal strength. Look for these things (in dB or decibels):

SNR or S/N or "Signal to Noise Ratio", which should be high. The minimum is around 10, but it should be well over 10. (Mine is 31 at my home in Pathum Thani.)

Attenuation (power loss in transmission/reception) should be low, and anything around 50 or more is bad (though I've seen some near 50 which do work). (Mine is 12 in Pathum Thani.) This number is generally higher the further you are from the ISP's closest router.

Maximum transmit power (Tx) should be less than about 15. (My DLink router doesn't give this reading.)

These are not absolute measurements, as the dB reading varies with frequency, but this gives a general indication of the quality of your line.

If there are problems with your line, then first check your the internal wiring of your home or office. I've fixed a lot of problems this way.

Keep in mind that you can have perfect wiring and a great connection to your ISP, but if your ISP is overloaded with traffic then the technical matters of your connection don't matter.

For anything beyond the scope of this article, either call your ISP's support number, or else just have an expert come in and take a look at your whole setup.

Opinion on Broadband

There have been allegations that the internet service providers watch your bandwidth and start limiting high consumption users, block Voice over IP (VoIP) heavy users, and so on. I don't know whether or not this is true, but I can understand both sides. The ISPs want to say "unlimited usage" because their competitors say this (whether or not it's true) and sales follow. However, companies must be financially sustainable and have decent profits in order to expand and improve their services.

Surely, there are regulatory and establishment issues which prevent truly free market competition from serving consumer demand in Thailand, and any pressure to bear on that is useful, especially as regards international bandwidth.

There are many legitimate complaints about the poor service of ISPs. Our new office on Asoke had terrible service from TOT right from the outset, so we can't blame the user for those problems.

My opinion on broadband is that everyone should get the maximum speed offered, and just be billed for how much data they download per month (i.e., per gigabyte), plus the base monthly fee. That would be fair to everyone. There could be one rate for domestic, and another for international. Not time, not speed "bandwidth" (bytes per second), but total data bytes downloaded. Everyone could get maximum speed.

The heavy users would pay for their consumption, rather than everyone paying the average of everyone else. Right now, the light duty users pay part of the bill of the movie downloaders, at this one-price-for-everyone policy of ISPs.

They can easily measure your consumption, and also split it into domestic consumption and international consumption. Indeed, I do for everyone on my LAN, automatically and easily. On any day, I can log into my firewall and tell how much any particular PC on our LAN consumed on any day, week, or month, and split it into domestic vs. international consumption statistics. If I were billing, then I could automate the whole process (maybe except for putting the paper into the printer).

However, all ISPs simply offer flat rate connections at different prices for different speeds. People who consume too much (like constant queues of movie downloads 24 hours/day) may be moved to share an overloaded channel with other heavy consumers -- "smoked out", whereby the ISP hopes they switch to a competitor. (That's what I did as an ISP many years ago, and I've heard others in the business say the same thing.)

The ISP management seems to think that people want to know their maximum cost and not worry. They might be right. Or they might be lazy. It is very easy to give people the ability to constantly track their bill, and even for the ISP to pop it up onto their screen occasionally. I also believe that people will buy speed, and higher speeds can be offered at lower prices this way. It doesn't cost the ISP significantly more to offer maximum speed locally instead of a lower speed. It could be a package they can offer in addition to the normal pachages, to differentiate themselves in the market.

Unfortunately, Thailand is a place better known for "copy cats" than inventors (just look at the low per capita patent office applications, or just look around and try to find something invented in Thailand vs. imported), as you can see by all the computer vendors crowding into Pantip Plaza instead of more conveniently spread around town, and other service providers simply copying st




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