PHUKET: TOT is expanding its coverage in Phuket with the addition of 11 telephone exchanges, switchboards that connect calls, this month, together providing 5,400 new phone lines for the island.
Copper cabling across Phuket will also be upgraded to support high-speed ADSL Internet access and improve the quality of services offered.
Many Phuket residents have been complaining about problems with telephone lines as demand has come to outweigh supply in some areas, leaving phone operators unable to cope.
In Patong, where many new businesses continue to start up, there has been increasing demand for new phone lines, which has in turn meant that local residents have had to go without.
Residents have also been disgruntled with problems encountered connecting to the Internet, while those applying for new phone lines have been told by operators that there are no new phone lines available.
Pairoj Somsri, director of Phuket TOT, told the Gazette that there are 60,000 phone numbers available in Phuket, with 43,000 currently in use, although high demand in certain areas has led to a shortage.
“In the case of Patong and some other areas, if the telephones lines are full, we have to send technicians to the area to design a project for how we can source new cables from our warehouse in Bangkok because we don’t have a warehouse in Phuket,” said K. Pairoj.
Mae Luan Rd in Phuket City is another black spot suffering a shortage of phone lines, but the high demand and limited space to hang cables on telephone poles means that meeting the demand is a slow process.
Using underground cables is one alternative, but consent must be given by residents before the cables can be installed, explained K. Pairoj. “We have tried to do this on Thalang Rd for years, but the residents in the area are not willing to let us,” he said.
A total of 560,000 new phone lines will be installed throughout Thailand by TOT under its nationwide upgrade.
“The price of installing a new phone line is now set at 3,350 baht, excluding VAT, with a monthly fee of 100 baht. The price is subject to change. The process of getting a new telephone line usually takes about one week,” said K. Pairoj.
The speed of ADSL connections on the island will be increased from 1MB to 2MB at the same existing price of 1,000 baht per month, said K. Pairoj, who added that some islanders had become frustrated with waiting for phone lines and had turned to TT&T, which operates under a government concession, in the hope of getting a line quicker.
TT&T is allocated a number of phone lines by TOT that it thens passes on to customers.
The prices with TT&T are the same as TOT, but the services differ slightly, said K. Pairoj.
K. Pairoj said that by the end of the year, Phuket is likely to have an additional 20 telephone exchanges, with 11 coming by the end of October and another nine currently in development.
Fueling the expansion, TOT’s gross profit has risen 38% in the past year and is expected to rise even further after the installation of the 20 exchanges. Most of the company’s income is derived from services such as the rental of circuit boards, lead lines and the laying of fiber-optic cables as used by large hotels for ISDN access.
The copper phone cables in Phuket are now being upgraded, with the distances between telephone exchanges being shortened to three kilometers.
This will enhance the quality and speed of ADSL connections, but will mean that all phone numbers will have to change due to the existing cables being cut, said K. Pairoj, although he was unable to confirm how long the upgrade will take.
Reducing the lengths of cable will reduce the number of connection problems. In areas where the cable length exceeds three kilometers, TOT will install more telephone exchanges.
The budget for this project has been granted and received, and all that remains is the actual construction of the telephone exchanges and shortening of the cables, K. Pairoj explained.
With the expansion in the number of new phone lines in Phuket, K. Pairoj explained that eventually Phuket’s current phone number allocation will need an overhaul. To help allocate new numbers TOT has a new geographic information system (GIS) system in place to allocate based on customers’ house addresses.
All customers will be given ample warning of the impending changes before they take place, he said, and all replacements of existing phone numbers will be free of charge.
The changes will be gradual, although a time-frame has yet to be set for the changes, he added.
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