Thai newspaper The Nation reports that the government yesterday approved in principle the 3G business plan of state-owned telco TOT. TOT will now submit the plan for approval by the National Economic & Social Development Board and the Public Debt Management Office. Following this process and final approval from the Finance Ministry and the cabinet, TOT can draft terms of reference and launch a tender for equipment. Through its subsidiary ACT Mobile – the parent of failed GSM operator Thai Mobile – TOT plans to invest THB29 billion (USD870 million) in a 3G W-CDMA network rollout in 2009-2011. The project targets breaking even financially within seven years, mainly through a strategy of leasing 3G network capacity to privately owned mobile operators including AIS, DTAC and True Move. In the first phase of the plan, TOT will upgrade 500 existing Thai Mobile GSM base stations to W-CDMA ahead of a launch in early 2009, and it will rebrand Thai Mobile as TOT Mobile. In the second phase, TOT will install a total of 5,220 new 3G base stations across the country, around 2,500 of them in the Bangkok area. TOT targets at least 350,000 3G subscribers by the end of next year and four million active users (retail and wholesale) by end-2013. ACT Mobile/Thai Mobile is currently a joint venture between TOT and sister telco CAT, but an agreement is in place to transfer CAT’s minority stake and 1900MHz wireless frequencies to TOT. The National Telecommunications Commission is expected to finish drawing up the regulations for the granting of several licences to operate 3G services in the 2.1GHz spectrum band by the end of this year.