Communication options in Bangkok
Communication options are as established and accessible in Bangkok as they are in any other major city in the world. Despite still being regarded as a developing country, Thailand boasts high speed Internet, satellite and cable television, a number of mobile phone networks and quality daily newspapers. All forms of communication are available in English and Thai and all contact centres have English speaking staff.
TOT is the original Thai government telephone company which has since been privatized to some degree. TOT had a monopoly on telephone lines until the 1990’s when Telecom Asia was allowed to compete. Telecom Asia in turn merged with the True corporation, which now lives on as True. True offers mobile coverage, landlines and broadband among other services.
Both companies offer the same services such as remote call forwarding and caller ID, but some phones may only work with TOT caller ID. As far as customer service is concerned, both companies have English speaking customer service. True has a large number of shops and service points across Bangkok which is a plus.
A local call from a landline to landline usually cost 3 baht flat fee, which means you get unlimited time for that amount. This is only in Bangkok, though, in the provinces you will pay per minute.
Today, it’s very easy to get a landline installed. You simply have to call the provider that you want to sign with and then let them guide you through the process. You will need a copy of your passport and a proof of residence letter from your embassy. You may be asked for a deposit as well. You may be able to get a functioning landline just by calling a provider or you may need a service technician to set it up for you. It all depends on your accommodation.
If you are renting a house, the likelihood is that your landlord will have already installed a phone line and the Internet, especially in new houses. They may even be in your landlord’s name. If you want them transferred into your name, and your landlord agrees, it is a simple case of contacting the relevant companies and transferring the name on the bill. Identification will be required which includes your passport and proof of residency; a letter from the landlord confirming that you live in the house will be sufficient.
If you are buying a house, you may need to install the lines on your own. Once you have chosen your preferred company (the two main providers have different deals throughout the year), you will need to present them with your passport and proof of residency (in this case it is a letter from immigration for a charge of 500 baht). You will need a work permit to get this letter. It is a very simple process and familiar to all concerned parties. The main immigration centre in Bangkok is located at 507 Soi SuanPlu, Sathorn Tai Road. Phone: +662 287-3101; website: http://www.immigration.go.th
Most foreigners have Pay As You Go mobile phones as anyone can have one and there is no need for any paperwork. SIM cards can be purchased from any phone shop in the city and if you should lose your phone, AIS (Thailand’s main network provider) will replace your SIM card free of charge so that you keep the same number, providing you use the AIS Network. Contract phones are available, but foreigners cannot have the contract in their name. It has to be in a Thai name.
Unlike in the West, mobile phones are usually sold alone on their own, so expect to pay more upfront than you would if the phone came with a contract. Cell phones are sold everywhere, but the 4th floor of the MBK shopping center is THE place to buy.
There are three main providers of mobile phone services in Thailand:
- AIS, or Advanced Info Service, is the biggest provider and also the first (http://www.ais.co.th)
- DTAC, D Total Access Communications, set up shop shortly after AIS, and is the second largest (http://www.dtac.co.th)
- True, the last of the big three to set up, formerly known as Orange and Telecom Asia (http://www.truecorp.co.th)
All three offer Pay As You Go phone service and you can usually buy a SIM card or top-up at any 7-11 or FamilyMart store. The best coverage is with AIS or DTAC, particularly outside Bangkok. You can also sometimes run into connection problems on high floors of condos. AIS and DTAC are known to have better coverage. Your monthly phone bill will obviously depend on how many calls you make and for how long.
Internet Phone (Skype)
Skype (http://www.skype.com/) is a fantastic, free software that allows people to talk for free over the internet. You simply install the Skype software and sign up for a free account and that’s it. You can now talk for free with all other Skype users around the world. Naturally, this requires that the person you want to talk to has Skype. It’s also possible to use Skype on your cell phone and get cheap international calls.