Wednesday, November 11, 2009

3G Services, and the Internet, in Thailand

Read a news story today that the TOT (Telephone Organization of Thailand) is set to let five local companies launch #G services -- in Bangkok, at least -- early next month.

That'll be great . . . if  it happens.

This service has met with many delays, and not just those imposed by the necessity to install the necessary infrastructure.

More than one government agency, which the TOT is, has some jurisdiction in this, nd not all have signed aboard for the proposed service, so I simply don't know if the service will really and truly be introduced anytime soon, though I hope it is.

One really intriguing aspect of the story is that prices could be up to 10 times less than current ones -- and current prices, especially in contrast to those of just a fes years ago are quite reasonable now, at least in my opinion. For instance, when I arrived in the Kingdom in mid-1994, the cheapest rate to call the U.S. was THB32.50 per minute, or US$1.30 at the then-exchange rate. Todfay, I can call the U.S. 24/7 for a flat THB5.00 per minute, a tiny fraction under US$.15! And the top rate way back when was a wallet-killing THB82.00 per minute, or US$3.28! Today's rate is under 5% of that previous top one. Heck, when I got my first hand phone back in the Age of Dinosaurs, I was paying THB5.00 per minute for local calls, so I'm sure not complaining now.

Internet service here, however, is an entirely different kettle of fish. It's extremely uneven in terms of speed. I essentially couldn't get on anywhere without repeated efforts and, I suspect, a lot of luck. And this is in spuite of the fact that True Internet customers with a 512kbps pacjage -- including me -- got a free upgrade to 3 mbps, 6 times faster. Chucle, chuckle. Right.

My friends who don't use the Internet (and in most cases, can't even turn on a computer) make fun of me for whining about this, pointing out that until not much more than a decade ago, we didn't even have stuff like e-mail. And that's true. But in my mind, that mockery is akin to that of someone who insisted on continuing to walk or ride a horse after the car came into use when Mr. Cowboy would mock a car-owning friend for complaining his car had some mechanical problem. In fact, it's same-same, different age.

And, no doubt, as technology moves forward and enters into our daily lives, we'll have complaints we can't even imagine now. Sure, our friends who live in a sod hut in the middle of the prairie can laugh at us for moaning about our utility bills and so on -- but we don't freeze in winter and burn up in summer, nor do we have to walk a mile to the nearest creek to fetch water and bathe, now, do we???

Though Thailand is light years away from being the technology hub it would love to be, credit must be given for the almost unthinkable strides the country has made over the past decade or so. I remember when the first Internet cafe opened here in Bangkok; it caused a huge sensation. Now there are more Internet cafes than there are bars, and that's saying something!!!

So you Cave People go right ahead and laugh . . . while you're out trying to kill a bear or deer to make yourself a blanket against the winter's snow and cold - - and see who gets the last laugh! :-)