The national telecom regulator is advising mobile operators to offload data and video traffic from their increasingly congested third-generation (3G) cellular networks with WiFi to avoid "clumps of traffic".
The warning came in response to a deluge of complaints over poor 3G signal and poor availability of the 3G network, said Col Settapong Malisuwan, vice-chairman of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission.
Most complaints urged the regulator to punish operators who failed to deliver claimed service promises at a minimum rate of 345 Kbps as stipulated in licence conditions.
Newer applications for video sharing, video on demand and video streaming have led to heavy 3G data traffic. Broadband availability also encourages heavy data consumption.
Col Settapong said 3G operators should not rely on 3G networks alone, especially at the beginning of network roll-outs, if they want to avoid clumps of traffic.
"The network offload strategy is an international standard for 3G operators to ease network congestion," he said.
Col Settapong mentioned Japan as a case study. NTT DoCoMo was the world's first mobile operator with 3G wireless broadband service. The company saw heavy data traffic during the first two years of service.
All 3G operators in Japan now have 3G and 4G cellular networks and WiFi infrastructure to prevent traffic overload.
Col Settapong said mobile operators will eventually need to develop Internet Protocol-based mobile core networks to handle bandwidth-intensive apps and services.
Pratthana Leelapanang, vice-president for wireless at Advanced Info Service, acknowledged a flood of complaints about 3G signal and availability in the past three months.
But he said the number of complaints fell sharply recently, thanks to completion of the company's 3G network expansion.
Thailand's biggest mobile operator officially launched its 3G mobile broadband service on the 2100-megahertz spectrum in May.
AIS now has 8,000 3G base stations nationwide under an investment budget of 70 billion baht until 2015.
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Writer: Komsan Tortermvasana and Srisamorn Phoosuphanusorn