BigDummyKenny

No Something. No Another Thing. No Something Else.

ASTTRU: Thailand Mobile Phone Service Tidbits

Posted by BigDummyKenny on July 8, 2011

Here’s a collection of information that some of you may find interesting should you be coming to or leaving Thailand concerning mobile phone service. I’ve divided this by service provider and also provide my experience of having my smart phone unlocked in Thailand.

AIS

If AIS is your service provider, there are some cool things you can do to manage your account via the internet. Through their E-Service web portal you can do a number of things: change calling and data plans, service options such as call forward, turn off the caller ring tone option and a number of other things. In my opinion one of the best things you can do is extend the number of days before your phone number expires. If you have a considerable amount of cash on the account but the expiration is coming up you can extend the expiration date for some of the Baht credit. Another interesting feature is the ability to transfer a balance from your number to another AIS number.

These services are available at: http://www.ais.co.th/eService/en/ – if you happen to get the page in Thai look for the “EN” icon which is on the top right hand side of most pages. Click it and the page will reload in English. Enter your Thai phone number 08xxxxxxxx and click the “Get One Time Password” image link – you’ll get a text message with a 4 digit password that you have 15 minutes to use to login to the AIS portal. Type in your number and the password again and you’re logged in and able to manage the services on your number. This will work even when you’re out of the country if your home carrier has a roaming arrangement with AIS.

For example, I’ve done this on both my AT&T and T-Mobile phones while in the USA. I insert my AIS SIM into my unlocked phones and wait a minute or two for network authorization to take place. I get the 3 or 4 (free) SMS messages about IR (International Roaming) and data plans and after requesting the password on the AIS website the SMS with the password is received. Hasn’t failed yet.

I give AIS top marks concerning the number of things you can do on their website to manage your account although I found it a bit difficult to find everything.

DTAC

DTAC has some of the same services available online as AIS, but you need to speak to DTAC’s customer service to get a permanent password beforehand. Check out the DTAC e-service portal (note that their translation to English effort needs work and their flash graphics are huge): http://www.dtac.co.th/2009/eng/e-service/index.html

For plans: http://www.happy.co.th/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=34&Itemid=68〈=en and for the type of SIM cards with the plans already set go to http://www.happy.co.th/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=3&Itemid=66〈=en

TRUE

I couldn’t find a way to manage services online through an e-portal, but services are available through a call to their customer service. They are doing quite a few things through ATM’s, kiosks and partners and via interactive text, but their online account management is non-existent: http://truemove.com/en/home.aspx

For those of you who need to call other countries frequently, or don’t want to have your Thai girlfriend calling you every few days for topup money, check into True’s interSIM. It’s a regular SIM card, but special promotion packaging advertises a 1baht/minute rate to the USA, Canada and a handful of other countries. I saw these special promotion SIM packages at several of the phone stalls at MBK. Look for the longer, rectangular shaped packaging (not the square packaging format shared by AIS, DTAC and True).

For more information on the interSIM: http://www.truemove.com/en/Inter-SIM-Prepay-condition-1.rails

Comparing the three networks for 3G service, TRUE’s is the best right now and they are the best positioned to provide nationwide 3G service.

Unlocking

I mentioned that you can get phones unlocked in my Smartphone post. Unlike some people, I don’t make things up for the sake of being right. Several months ago I had to purchase a prepaid smart phone from AT&T (they market their prepaid phones and SIM packages as GO-Phones).

The model I purchased was the LG-Thrive (Unbranded model number LG-P506 with AT&T model number LG-P506GO).  Smaller than an iPhone and most smart phones, it’s a very nice Android smart phone with a massive battery. The phone was a SIM and network locked phone on the AT&T network, meaning when I inserted a valid T-Mobile SIM card into the phone and it wouldn’t connect to T-Mobile’s network. Even when I popped the AT&T SIM card into the phone it wouldn’t connect. It was necessary to go to the AT&T website listed on the GO-Phone instruction manual and activate the SIM card with the card in the phone.

On my last trip to Thailand I took the afore mentioned AT&T LG-Thrive for some work related activities and also wanted to see if the people at MBK could in fact unlock this phone. Along the way there were some surprises.

I arrive in Thailand and once checked into my hotel I make way to the 7-11 and purchase a DTAC SIM card and an AIS topup card (I already had a fully loaded True SIM card).

I get into my room and turn on my phone with the AT&T SIM in the phone but didn’t expecting much since the phone is using a pre-paid SIM and is network locked and I haven’t signed up for any roaming services. The first surprise is the phone successfully handshakes with the True network and I get a signal.

After another minute I get a couple SMS’ about network and data roaming and surprise – 3G connectivity. AT&T has roaming agreements with both AIS and True, but at $1.29-$1.99/minute I’ll keep the SIM in just to see who’s trying to reach me and call back on my True SIM.

 

So I know the phone works with the AT&T SIM and I get 3G on True. What will happen when I insert each of the 3 SIM cards from the Thailand carriers? DTAC? Nothing. AIS? Nothing. TRUE? Same message. I get the same message with all 3 SIMs in the phone:

 

Enough for that particular afternoon. Time to line up more R&R, commencing with a foot massage. Tomorrow I’ll make my way to MBK and see if they can unlock the phone.

The next day at about noon I take my phone over to MBK. After walking around to inspect prospective shops I make my decision on sophistication of the tools on the workbench and the number of computers they have available for unlocking iPhones. One shop looks like it has potential, with a guy testing a cell phone hooked up to a frequency analyzer/oscilloscope. Yea, I think there’s at least one guy who knows what he’s doing. It’s probably overkill but I give it a go. I ask the girl at the counter if the phone can be unlocked as I show it to her. I tell her I want a firmware unlock and not a SIM unlock (note that some places have the capability to reprogramme the SIM chip so the network code is different on the SIM, thus the phone thinks the correct SIM is installed and will handshake with the network but with that SIM only) She asks oscilloscope guy and he takes a quick look and says, “chai”. I ask how much and how long. We settle on about $15.00 USD and she says come back in 1 hour.

Walking around during my wait I’m amazed at the number of good quality, used cell phones available. Blackberry, iPhone, HTC, Nokia. You name it, they’ve got it. Now I have an idea what many Thai girls do with their expensive phones once their farang boyfriend of the week leaves the country. Most phones are in excellent condition. They should be, as you can find almost any case for any phone made.  Want a new white 32GB back for your black 3GS 16GB iPhone? No problem. Watch out about the phone pricing though, as I found the prices most places wanted for second hand smart phones on the high side. An example: used 8gb 2G iPhones were listed between 5k and 6.5K baht. You can find them on Craigs list in the USA for $70-$100. I check my watch and I’ve been gone 90 minutes, so time to get back.

I get my phone back with dtac SIM installed…3 bars showing on the phone. She calls, phone rings, I answer. I call back, no problems. Money is paid and I’m on my way back to the hotel. Now time to satisfy my curiosity before I test some LBS apps.

AT&T – Still get my connection by roaming on TRUE with 3G service
AIS – Connection and Edge
DTAC – Connection and Edge
True – Connection and Edge followed by SMS message about registering. Delete message. What going on here? 3G with AT&T SIM but no 3G with TRUE SIM on TRUE network? Check TRUE website. Nothing I can find there of help. Turn off phone. Remove battery, remove SIM. Reinstall SIM, battery and turn back on. SMS about registering again. OK, why not. Register. Just agree and say Yes. A few minutes later, 3G.

(BDK – Insert 3 photos here – Thrive_AIS  Thrive_DTAC and Thrive_TRUE_3G)

Sorry to those of you who find most of this uninteresting, but there may be readers who have locked 3G-850Mhz capable phone outside of Thailand or other tri/quad band GSM phones who prefer spending around 400.00 baht to use that phone (with all their contacts and customizations retained) as opposed to 16,000.00 baht on a phone that still isn’t 3G capable in Thailand.

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17 Responses to “ASTTRU: Thailand Mobile Phone Service Tidbits”

  1. RealDaffyDuck said

    Nice article.

  2. End Of Story said

    What are you telling us? That BBK spent 16k on a phone in Thailand that doesn’t get 3G there or in the US?

    Kenny has to be one of the dumbest professors on the face of the planet.

    End Of Story!

  3. I can’t believe that Kenny got this sooooooooo wrong. I mean even your typical Thailand sexpat with the Chang T-Shirt shopping with his girl at MBK can buy the proper phone. Right?

    The only explanation is that he is doing this on purpose to generate controversy on his dying (no content, no posters, no performance) blog.

    Kenny’s an idiot but he’s not that stupid. After all, he reads books like Prufrock likes to point out.

    • ASTTRU said

      Could be BBG, but I have my doubts. He’s gone to some effort in digging up obscure references to support his position. The morphing of his position from V1 – V3 and several statement like the following tells me he doesn’t understand

      It’s true that some of the frequencies are supported but all frequencies must be working for the 3G to connect.

      As an educator, I would think he would admit to such errors so he doesn’t mislead others. But then I understand from reading some of the press about his questionable professional publishing endeavors this behavior doesn’t come as a surprise.

  4. JustinCider said

    Great post. Small point – could you leave off the ‘$’ when referring to baht. Cheers.

  5. MBK Used Phone & Pawn Shop said

    For Sale: Like New HTC Incredible S. Used for less than 2 months! In perfect working order.

    Come on down to the shop to see this phone in person or contact BigBabyKenny @ BigBabyKenny.com

    It's Incredible

  6. How much? And what was the original retail cost?

  7. Raul Villegas said

    Well Mr. DummyKenny, I must say that in my home country of Panama things are not so difficult as they are in the United States. I find this provides me all the information I need to be prepared on that day I am able to travel to Thailand. If Kenny could provide information as this I am sure his readership would expand faster than a micro-penis. Haha. Did you like my joke Mr. DummyKenny?

    I like to joke, but to joke on Mr. Kenny’s site is no laughing matter. I think Mr. Kenny takes things too seriously. Maybe he will understand my joke about getting a car key made. Yes, I, Raul Villegas, thinks Mr. Kenny is too serious!

    I think Mr. Kenny needs to spend more time on his research but I understand that is not his strength. I hope you do not think I am speaking bad of Mr. Kenny as I think he tries hard.

    You pal,
    Raul Villegas

  8. RealDaffyDuck said

    I *do* like that one regular commenter on Kenny’s smartPhone thread:

    http://bigbabykenny.com/?p=4261#comment-161927

    Smartphones in Thailand- V4.0 says on September 25, 2011 at 5:22 pm:

    Smartphones in Thailand- V4.0….
    where Kenny finds out his phone he bought in Thailand doesn’t work on T-Mobile

    Ouch!

    • Lemon Twist said

      Long ago I’d read BBK’s blog on a regular basis until I figured out he was mostly winging it. Reading his post on smart phones reminds me that nothing has changed except

      1. Prufrock is long gone.
      2. The comments on his website are for the most part from spammers.

      “For an object lesson in what happens when a blog administrator abandons all responsibility for managing comments refer to the BigBabyKenny blog.” – mundane Bangkok

    • RealDaffyDuck said

      “For an object lesson in what happens when a blog administrator abandons all responsibility for managing comments refer to the BigBabyKenny blog.” – mundane Bangkok

      That quote just never gets old, does it?

  9. Crackerhead said

    This is the other post that gives me a chuckle: ASTTRU’s posts debunking the crap on BBK and the occasional comment on BBK’s Smartphone post by a reader stating as much.

  10. BigDummyKenny said

    Why is it the photos Kenny took of his phone only displayed the “E” icon and not the “3G” icon for his data connection while ASTTRU’s photo shows an unlocked AT&T phone getting 3G service? Wasn’t BBK telling everyone how great his 3G service was on DTAC? Another “F”ail.

    • Indeed – what’s even better, the particular mobile phone that Kenny bought in Thailand, does not support the weird and unique 3G frequency of his favorite non-imperialist carrier, T-Mobile.

      T-Mobile – The same carrier that has lost 710,000 subscribers last quarter, because of not having the imperialist iPhone.

      Meaning, that once back home, all Kenny is getting on his super-Android 3G mobile phone is… Edge!

      Seriously, I couldn’t make this up…. and he’s an *ECONOMICS* professor, who’s just wasted $700 on a phone he can’t use in ANY places that he’s going.

      Hahaha Hehehe Hohoho!

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