According to a report released by the digital marketing firm “We Are Social” there are 97 million registered mobile phone connections in Thailand, of which 75% are broadband (3G or 4G) enabled. The number of active mobile internet users currently stands at 17.7 million, or around 27% of the entire population and the average Thai (with mobile internet connectivity) spends just under 4 hours every day online. As internet capable smartphones are becoming more and more available in Thailand the demand is insatiable.
From experience, I would say the 3G internet services offered by operators in Thailand are fairly decent when compared to others nearby and most Western countries. During my first few months in Thailand I relied solely on a prepaid 3G mobile internet package offered by AIS 3G.
The basic 500 baht/month package got me unlimited speeds with a 1Gb data limit. A nice feature was that even if I exceeded the 1Gb threshold, browsing would still be possible (albeit unbearably slow). Still fast enough for social media & email apps though so not completely useless. It’s convenient and reliable, with quick access wherever there’s mobile reception and I found it especially handy on whilst travelling on ferries or overland.
A 1Gb data limit is however no match for browsing “full” websites (tethering a laptop to your phone and using its 3G connection). I tethered my laptop to my phone on a couple of occasions for work purposes when up in Isaan and soon used up my whole data package. I was then restricted to buying 150Mb “top-ups” at 150 baht each until the month rolled over and my phone was billed another 500 baht, quite expensive when it all adds up!. An alternative had to be found and it came in the form of AIS 3G’s “Pocket Wifi” device.
The “Pocket Wifi” device is a simple 3G modem and provides you with your very own private WiFi connection wherever you are (granted there’s a strong enough mobile phone signal). The device comes in 2 speeds & I opted for 21.6Mbs, more than enough for checking emails, browsing and light streaming. This came at a price of 1,600 baht and I chose the prepaid (1-2-Call! SIM) version. Like the prepaid 3G internet, you have a choice of multiple monthly data plans and I opted for 4 GB for 400 baht/month, more than enough for emails, browsing and some light streaming. Set up was quick and simple, all done in-store and I had the device up and running within minutes.
In the long run, if you intend on travelling and need constant access to the internet then a portable 3G modem is the way to go. You could get by with prepaid mobile internet but when tethering your phone to your laptop, the 3G modem is definitely more cost effective. 3G internet in Thailand has been made to cater to the masses, and without a doubt its main use here is social media. This means it’s cheap to connect to, but expensive (compared to a fixed WiFi connection) if you want to use it for much else. All in all I’d say I’m fairly satisfied with the quality of mobile internet available in Thailand. Mobile phone signal can be found virtually anywhere and it works in a pinch, albeit considerably more expensive than a WiFi connection. If you’re going to stay put in a place for a while, you might want to re consider 3G as your primary internet source but it may quickly become your best friend if you’re travelling around.