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Live Wire: 3G WiFi offerings in Phuket

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Live Wire: 3G WiFi offerings in Phuket | Thaiger

PHUKET: In the first installment of this series, I talked about the general state of internet connections in Phuket.

Last week, I covered the current offerings in land lines, with TOT Fiber 2U 10 Mega bits per second (Mbps) representing the best bang for your baht (sometimes; 1,500 baht/month), True DOCSIS “Ultra” coming in second (if you can get it; 599 bt/mo or 1,299 bt/mo for a moderately faster line), then TOT’s WiNet hybrid wireless-to-your-home (599 bt/mo), and finally all of the ADSL lines, which are generally indistinguishable from one another, and run 599 bt/mo.

While you’ll find advertisements for 20 Mbps or even 100 Mbps land lines in Phuket, it’s rare that we get a line that clocks much more than 2 or 3 Mbps consistently, judging by international single-threaded downloads (see: phuketinternetspeed.com).

Lately, even some of the Fiber 2U lines have slowed down to the point where they’re indistinguishable from plain-vanilla ADSL lines.

A speed of 2 to 3 Mbps isn’t bad: it’ll keep a Skype video connection going, and you’ll be able to see YouTube and other low definition video sources without much dropping or pausing. But, if you want to stream high definition TV, particularly if it isn’t cached in Bangkok, chances are awfully good that you’ll be disappointed with any line in Phuket.

This week I want to take a look at 3G wireless offerings in Phuket. I hate the term 3G because anybody can sell anything and call it “3G”. In Phuket, we had one telephone company that used the term 3G for a wireless internet service that’s not even close to the commonly accepted definition of 3G. That service is gone now, so I guess it makes a little bit of sense to talk about 3G in Phuket. I’ll begrudgingly follow the common parlance.

If you don’t understand the difference between 3G and WiFi, you aren’t alone. Many of the people who sell 3G and WiFi in Phuket don’t know the difference either. If you need a primer, I went over the main factors in my May 25 Live Wire column last year.

When you start looking at wireless connections, one of the first bits of terminology you’ll find is “3.9G”. Saints preserve us. Since there’s no real definition of 3G, you can rest comfortable in the knowledge that there’s even less of a definition for 3.9G. It’s all marketing flim-flammery.

In Thailand, the term 3G is synonymous with HSPA wireless technology. If you pay for 3G, what you’re actually getting is HSPA. There’s a greatly improved version of HSPA called HSPA+, and that’s what TOT calls 3.9G. While HSPA+, in theory, should run almost twice as fast as HSPA, the fact is that TOT hasn’t built out its infrastructure to support faster speeds. We rarely see 3.9G HSPA+ connections running any faster than 3G HSPA.

And all the fluff about 42 Mbps – the advertised speed for some 3G services in Phuket – it’s drivel. Utter fantasy. The technology may be theoretically capable of running 42 Mbps, in a lab. Our measured speeds out in the field here typically come in between 0.6 and 1.2 Mbps – and that’s both 3G and 3.9G. The speed varies greatly depending on your physical location: Phuket isn’t blanketed with 3G towers. If you get a slower connection, expect to have trouble connecting with Skype. If you get a faster connection, you can certainly watch YouTube videos on a phone or low quality tablet, but you may see a lot of drops and stutters on a 10-inch tablet, including the iPad.

Last week I talked about the dearth of information on the web about land lines: you can’t go to a vendor’s site, click a button or two, and see a full list of what’s offered and how much it costs. Same with wireless services. To get the latest prices, you need to physically go to a shop and ask.

One of the enduring, endearing features of 3G in Phuket is that the Thai government hasn’t figured out what it’s doing with 3G. As a direct result, not all 3G phones / tablets / USB dongles will work on a specific carrier’s channels. You should take your phone (tablet, dongle) with you when you buy a 3G package, and make sure that it’s working before you leave the shop.

Here are my recommendations for 3G package vendors, in order:

CAT My Click has a new HSPA+ network that isn’t really new. It’s the old TrueMove-H
network, which was bought and built by True subsidiaries, but then under terms of the obligatory contract reverted back to CAT. The big advantage? CAT sells the service for about half of what the other 3G companies charge: 590 baht per month.

Like all of the 3G vendors, CAT advertises that its package is “unlimited” but that’s ridiculous. Every “unlimited” package, regardless of vendor, has a limit to the amount of data you can download in a month – some 2 GB, some 3 GB, at least one has 4 GB, and after you download the maximum amount, your speed is cut back so severely you’ll think you’re using a tin can and string. Most people can get by with 2 or 3 GB per month, but only if they use the 3G connection for viewing YouTube videos or checking Facebook or email. Heavier use – including tethering a computer to your phone – will no doubt blow through the data cap in much less than a month.

TrueMove-H and DTAC both use the CAT network. As far as I can tell, all three networks work equally well (or poorly, depending on your location). The main difference: CAT is half the price of the other two. You may find that one of the three has a deal that you can use – a discount on the iPhone 5, say, or a Samsung Note II.

Sometimes True runs a discount on 3G when you buy TrueVision (formerly UBC) satellite TV service. But when it comes to the 3G network, they’re all the same.

AIS uses the TOT network. While CAT has had 3G service and towers in Phuket for years, TOT is a relative newcomer.

Although they seem to have good coverage, neither CAT nor TOT publish detailed maps that reliably tell you where their services drop off. As a result, you may find that either AIS/TOT or CAT/True/DTAC provide stronger signals in your particular location.

Prices are subject to change without notice – heaven knows the web pages won’t be updated – but as things stand right now, the wireless line speeds from all of the vendors are pretty close to identical, and CAT has a big advantage on price.

Next week I’ll step you through the procedures involved in getting a new internet connection.

Live Wire is Woody Leonhard’s weekly snapshot of all things Internet in Phuket.

Follow him on Twitter, @PhuketLiveWire, and “like” the pages at facebook.com/SandwichShoppe, facebook.com/phuketgazette.net and now Google+, or send him mail at — Woody Leonhard

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Tourism

Phuket’s July Sandbox no-quarantine model “needs a major revamp”

Tim Newton

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Phuket’s July Sandbox no-quarantine model “needs a major revamp” | Thaiger
PHOTO: The monsoon waves are starting to hit Phuket's west coast

Thailand’s Sports and Tourism minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn is acknowledging that Phuket’s ‘Sandbox’ model for a no-quarantine re-opening in July will need “a major revamp”. As the Songkran travel bubble bursts and the monsoon season waves start to roll onto the island’s west coast beaches, Phuket’s scheduled July re-boot suddenly seems a long way off.

Minister Phiphat says he plans to meet with “all related agencies” this week. Apart from the latest national re-surge in new infections, Phuket has been unable to get its hands on sufficient vaccines to meed its deadline of 70% of the island vaccinated by July 1. Thailand’s limited supplies of the vaccine – including some 930,000 doses designated for Phuket – are being rerouted to other provinces as the government prioritises the limited supply.

“We are all concerned about the reopening timeline,” he was quoted in Bangkok Post.

But the Minister did acknowledge that, if the 70% vaccination level couldn’t be met, they may consider opening some areas of the island. Exactly how that would work hasn’t been revealed at this stage.

The minister also brought up the ongoing travel bubble negotiations and says he hadn’t heard back from some of the candidates with their reaction to the current outbreak.

Flights in and out of Phuket Airport’s international terminal have been extremely patchy and the flights from feeder tourist markets will need to co-operate with any re-opening plans.

Phuket, whilst suffering a rise in new infections, hasn’t been hit as hard as some of the other popular holiday provinces, like Chiang Mai, Chon Buri (Pattaya) and Prachuap Khiri Khan (Hua Hin).

This year’s Songkran was going to be a major stepping stone for the island’s recovery and many hotels, some who had opened especially to cater for Songkran holiday traffic, noted a lot of cancellations just prior to the break.

But some island hotels have still reported high occupancy rates over the past week. One Manager, who did not want his name published, said that their hotel was almost full with Thai patrons, most who had pre-paid for their flights and accommodation and decided to go ahead anyway.

Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, the president of the Phuket Tourist Association, says that they are opposed to any lockdown as it would cripple the island, with its tourist businesses already suffering greatly. He stated that 15% of people cancelled their Songkran bookings, while 30% had postponed their trips.

The Sports and Tourism Ministers is still in quarantine after having close contact with Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 2 weeks ago.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Phuket begs Kolour attendees to come for Covid-19 testing

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Phuket begs Kolour attendees to come for Covid-19 testing | Thaiger
FILE PHOTO: Kolour in the park was more pleasant in 2018 before Covid-19.

Health officials in Phuket put out a public statement this week compelling all foreigners who attended clubs and Kolour events to report for Covid-19 testing. As many might expect, the response has been lacklustre at best. Spreading the message around the foreigner and expat community in Phuket, the message is aimed at the multitudes of people, mostly foreign who attended Kolour and related events that turned into a Covid-19 superspreader event. Many foreigners have not come forward, much to health officials chagrin.

Online and on social media, foreigners and Thais shed light on why this urgent public health request is going largely unheeded. Foreigners fear the repercussions of coming forward, especially since Thailand is not allowing staying home or elsewhere in isolation if someone tests positive for Covid-19. Quarantine is mandatory, and with infection numbers exploding across the country, many fear the less-than-posh comforts of being quarantined in an emergency field hospital.

Cost is the other factor that likely is preventing foreigners from turning themselves in to be tested for Covid-19. While Phuket health officials may test people for free, anyone found infected with Covid-19 will be financially responsible for all the costs of their treatment and quarantine. Foreigners with limited financial resources, especially after a year of holing up in Thailand to ride out the Coronavirus, may resist reporting to authorities when they cannot afford the mandatory quarantine and medical treatment.

Perhaps recognizing this hesitation, the message includes a plea for all attendees to self-quarantine and self-monitor for any symptoms over the next week, even if they fail to report or test negative. The note also reminds everyone to wear masks in public at all times. The statement to the public also instructed anyone who attended any of the Covid-19 spreading nightlife events to report to the Acute Respiratory Infection Clinic area of Vachira General Hospital to receive a Covid-19 swab test.

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions

Tim Newton

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Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions | Thaiger

Three of Thailand’s biggest expat areas are seeing sharp rises in new infections, partly from pre-Songkran traffic. The Songkran holidays, now officially over (but will see many people taking today off and making a weekend Songkran extension), and the government says they are expecting to see a rise in the cases numbers reported in the popular holiday locations.

Chon Buri Public Health office says they now have a total of 910 infections since April 1. They have 103 new cases in the past 24 hours. Most new cases are in Bang Lamung district which includes Pattaya City with 47, Siracha with 12) & Chon buri City with 8.

Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions | News by Thaiger

Meanwhile Phuket has a total of 142 infections recorded on the island with the Governor still insisting there will be no need for a lockdown. Here’s a breakdown of the areas and the numbers of recorded infections so far (below).

Governor Narong announced that the Phuket Infectious Disease Control Committee won’t be implementing an official lockdown, but will “strictly raise the intensity of public health measures to counter the spread of Covid-19″.

“Everyone should wear a face mask, maintain social distancing, wash their hands frequently and install the Mor Chana app (available for free from App Store and Google Play Store).”

A meeting of the CCSA, chaired by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha is expected to upgrade restrictions in red zone areas around the country, which includes Phuket and Pattaya. Read more about the latest red and orange zones HERE.

Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions | News by Thaiger

For Hua Hin expats, there’s been 100 new Covid-19 infections announced in Prachuap Khiri Khan in the past 24 hours, 75 cases from Hua Hin. This takes the total in the province since April 1 to 625. Hua Hin accounts for nearly 90% of the district’s total cases.

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