Obtaining a Thai pre-paid SIM card will enable the subscriber to use the respective carrier’s 3G or, substantially faster, 4G/LTE mobile data networks and, in areas of coverage, allow the internet to be accessed on a smartphone or other SIM-enabled device. Each of AIS, dtac and TrueMove H offer daily, weekly and monthly data plans with prices for equivalent or near-identical packages more or less comparable among the three mobile operators. For 24 hours use of maximum speed 3G or 4G/LTE, the very cheapest plan costs a mere 9 baht with a 100 MB data allowance to 75 baht with a 5 GB data allowance; seven days use of maximum speed 3G or 4G/LTE is priced between 59 baht with a 400 MB data allowance and 150 baht with a 5 GB data allowance; 30 days use of maximum speed 3G or 4G/LTE starts at 199 baht with a 1 GB data allowance to 799 baht with a data limit of 12 GB. It’s important to be aware, though, that the price of add-on data plans are almost always quoted exclusive of VAT (currently 7%) so purchasing a plan stated as 199 baht, for example, will actually deduct 213 baht (rounded up from 212.93 baht) from the credit balance on your SIM card.
Shared WiFi is by far the internet connection technology of choice in Chiang Mai and accessible either via one or more wireless networks installed on the premises or through one of the thousands of ‘premium rate’ WiFi hotspots throughout the city. In the overwhelming majority of condominiums, for instance, communal areas are served by on-site –and usually complimentary- wireless internet; apartment owners, in contrast, regularly charge their residents a monthly rate (typically between 200 and 350 baht) for the privilege of connecting to the building’s own WiFi network(s). Alternately, AIS, dtac and TrueMove H each offer city-wide WiFi access variously on an hourly, daily, weekly or monthly basis. Occasionally provided free when buying certain 3G or 4G/LTE data plans, ‘premium rate’ WiFi more often than not needs to be purchased separately and, with precious few exceptions, will require you to be an existing subscriber. At its most convenient and affordable, this can be achieved simply by obtaining any Thai pre-paid SIM card, topping up the balance with sufficient credit then buying one of the mobile operator’s available WiFi packages. For 24 hours use of any standard WiFi hotspot provided by AIS costs 29 baht whereas that for both dtac and TrueMove H is priced at 39 baht; considerably better value, though, is 30 days use of standard WiFi charged at 69 baht for wireless hotspots provided by dtac, 99 baht for hotspots belonging to both dtac and the Internet Service Provider 3BB, or 100 baht for any TrueMove H WiFi access points. In certain areas of the city, AIS now also offers ‘Super WiFi’ with blisteringly fast download speeds of up to 650Mbps (between 6.5 and 65 times faster than their standard WiFi network) at a cost of 99 baht for 30 days but do impose a 20 GB data allowance. Exactly like with advertised rates for 3G and 4G/LTE data packages, the price of add-on WiFi plans is rarely quoted inclusive of 7% sales tax.
As in more developed countries, home broadband in Thailand is delivered largely through DSL (with data transmitted over a conventional telephone line) or, increasingly so in Chiang Mai, courtesy of faster and more reliable Fibre optic cables. Only really available to those living in a condo or a house and, in all but one instance, subject to a minimum commitment of six or 12 months for new customers, the four principal Internet Service Providers in Chiang Mai each offer a series of Fibre optic and/or DSL broadband packages for residential use (albeit to varying degrees of geographic coverage within the city and beyond). A comparatively expensive solution even by western standards, the very cheapest home broadband package currently weighs in at 590 baht per month for each of 3BB’s 30/5 Mbps VDSL and AIS’s 20/10 Mbps Fibre optic subscriptions while 599 baht a month will buy you either Sinet’s baseline –but uniquely contract-free- 25/8 Mbps Fibre optic package or TrueOnline’s 30/5 Mbps ‘Super Speed Fibre’. The monthly fee for 3BB’s only Fibre optic broadband package (200/50 Mbps) is 1200 baht with Sinet’s 100/40 Mbps plan the same price; most costly by far, though, is AIS’s 1000/200 Mbps combined broadband internet and entertainment subscription at a cool 19,990 baht per month! Again, advertised rates don’t normally take account of VAT in which case an additional 7% needs to be added to the stated prices. As a rule, installation fees are waived though a refundable deposit of between 500 and 3000 baht to loan a broadband router from the provider is normally expected upfront.
No mention of how to get online in Chiang Mai would be complete without reference to the city’s numerous internet cafés. Nowadays more the mainstay of video game playing Thai teenagers, the very lowest rate for one hour of internet access is just 10 baht although some such venues are known to ask up to six times as much for as long. Ordinarily, you’ll have to pay for a minimum of one hour whether you use the full 60 minutes or not but a few places do offer concessions or complimentary minutes for extended periods of use.
Which of the various technologies do you use to connect to the internet in Chiang Mai and how much do you normally spend each month on 3G/4G, WiFi or home broadband? What download and upload speeds do you receive? Feel free to reveal all by posting a comment below!
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out the Introduction to our series about the true cost of living in Chiang Mai with separate articles detailing Accommodation, Alcohol & Tobacco, Bank Charges, Food & Drink, Health Care, Immigration Fees, Thai SIM Cards, Transportation, Utilities & Laundry as well as Work Spaces.