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Phuket Live Wire : TrueMove-H: New kid on the wireless block

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PHUKET: Last week in Live Wire I talked about finding a good wireless Internet service provider. At the time I didn’t have enough first-hand experience with the new True wireless system, called TrueMove-H, to give you a definitive opinion about the service. Now I have a week of “3G+” under my belt, and the results are good, but not great.

A little background. I’ve been using True’s “3G” HSPA service for several months. Here in Phuket, the old HSPA service was available only on the west coast, and from one tower on top of Bangkok Hospital Phuket. It provided decent service – never went down, as far as I know – but the speeds weren’t fantastic, and the geographical restriction to a thin slice of the island put a big dent in the kind of service you’d expect from a wireless internet connection.

All that has changed. As of last week, you can’t even sign up for an old (as in four-months-old) True “3G” HSPA account. When you walk up to a True counter these days, the only wireless on offer is the new TrueMove-H “3G+” service.

The timeline is a bit confusing, but suffice it to say that True bought out Hutch in Bangkok, and decided to put HSPA+ service all over Thailand. (The whole story is considerably more complicated: the TrueMove-H service isn’t actually from True, but from a subsidiary). Both True and Hutch run on the CAT towers and network. That means TrueMove-H only works at 850 MHz, an important point that I talked about in last week’s Live Wire.

If you already have the old True HSPA “3G” package, True will send you an SMS with a dire warning: you have to go to True and switch SIM cards. The process isn’t difficult, but you should take your phone with you. There are specific settings that have to be typed into your phone or tablet to get them to work with the new system.

After you sign up, it can take three days for your new SIM card to work. Once the registration time has passed – you’ll get another SMS – you simply swap out the old SIM card for the new. Once you’ve registered your new SIM card, the old SIM card won’t work.

Before you start guffawing about the “+” in “3G+” take note: TrueMove-H uses HSPA+ technology. Arguably, it’s the first “real 3G” available in Phuket. Take a look at my April 27 Live Wire column for an explanation of HSPA+ and to see where it fits in the speed pantheon. The same technology sold in the U.S. by Verizon is called “4G.” But that’s another story for another time.

Right now, we’re seeing international download speeds, which are posted at PhuketInternetSpeed.com, at between 1,300 and 2,200 Kbps – which is fast enough to run standard video (not high definition). Compare that with AIS’s HSPA “3G” service, which is currently running 400 to 800 Kbps. At this point, my 759 baht/month TrueMove-H wireless account is running faster than my 1,400 baht/month True 10 Mbps wired ADSL account.

Of course, as the service catches on, the speeds may well plummet. That’s what happened with AIS. If True doesn’t spend enough to keep up on international bandwidth for the TrueMove-H service, its speeds will suffer too. Time will tell.

TrueMove-H “3G+” isn’t expensive. Here are the options you’re most likely to consider:

The standard phone package, with 250 minutes of voice time and 1.5 GB of internet traffic (enough for web surfing and a reasonable volume of email) runs at 649 baht/month. The better-endowed phone package, with 500 minutes of talk and 3 GB of data, comes in at 899 baht.

True insists upon calling their 3 GB capped packages “unlimited”, but they aren’t unlimited at all. Once you exceed 3 GB of data during a monthly billing cycle, your speed is automatically throttled to a nominal 384 Kbps. The service is “unlimited” in the sense that you can download an unlimited amount of data, albeit at reduced speeds.

The standard tablet package – where you don’t care about phone minutes – gets a bit of a break, with 3 GB of monthly capped data at 759 baht/month.

There are less-expensive packages, but all of those have an absolute limit on the amount of data you can use per month: if you go over the limit, your account’s shut off for the rest of the month.

Right now there are three companies providing wireless internet access in Phuket: TrueMove, AIS and CAT. If you have a phone or tablet that you want to hook into the internet, your choice may be dictated by the network frequency (see last week’s Live Wire for details). If your phone or tablet can support both 850 MHz and 900 MHz HSPDA, or if you’re going to buy a new phone, or use a USB dongle or MyFi router for access, you can choose between AIS and TrueMove.

At this point, given the choice, I would go with TrueMove. In fact, that’s exactly what I’ve done: both my iPad 2 and my Samsung Galaxy (one of the old cheap ones!) run on TrueMove-H. So far, no complaints.

Next week in Live Wire, I’ll talk about general strategies for signing up for an Internet service in Phuket.

If you aren’t yet reporting your speeds on PhuketInternetSpeed.com, please drop by and sign up! It’s free, only takes a few seconds, and the results help everybody to figure out what’s working and what’s not worth the effort.

Remember that all of the data – more than 23,000 reported sightings at this point – is immediately available to anybody who wants to download, look at or fiddle with the results. Also remember that the Internet Service Providers are watching the reports.

Live Wire is Phuket Gazette columnist Woody Leonhard’s weekly snapshot of all things internet in Phuket.

Follow him on Twitter: @PhuketPC, “like” his page at facebook.com/SandwichShoppe, or visit his free Sunday morning computer clinics at Woody’s Sandwich Shoppes.

To see what Woody’s up to in the international press, and to keep on top of the latest patches and problems with Windows and Office, drop by AskWoody.com.

— Woody Leonhard

 

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