State-owned telco TOT yesterday announced the launch of commercial 3G services over its 2.1GHz W-CDMA/HSPA ‘TOT 3G’ network in Bangkok, although with only one of the five planned private mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) making packages available on the first day. Samart I-Mobile launched yesterday under the I-Mobile 3G X brand, targeting 20,000 users within a month and 200,000 within a year – although TOT has allocated it only 100,000 phone numbers initially – and is focusing on broadband download content, video calls and other high bandwidth services. TOT itself signed up 5,000 3G customers in advance – after offering the service to employees and some 10,000 existing customers of its GSM subsidiary Thai Mobile, the network of which provided the basis for the initial 3G rollout in the capital over 548 base stations. The Bangkok Post writes that TOT’s 3G post-paid packages require a user to acquire a new SIM card – given free along with a new handset to Thai Mobile users – and sign up for a twelve-month subscription, with the cheapest combined voice/data option costing THB199 (USD6) per month for 199 inclusive minutes of both voice and video calls, plus 199MB of data usage. A THB699 monthly plan includes 699 minutes of voice and video calls each, plus 1GB of data. To provide 2G services nationwide, TOT has signed a network roaming agreement with Advanced Info Service (AIS) for twelve months. An AIS spokesperson commenting on the launch expressed the hope that a strong consumer response to TOT’s launch could spur the government to accelerate the long-awaited auction for additional 2.1GHz licences, which has been pushed back to around February next year at the earliest.
At the inauguration ceremony for TOT 3G, Thailand’s Information and Communications Technology Minister Ranongruk Suwanchawee reaffirmed that TOT would move ahead with a plan to roll out a nationwide 2.1GHz network, which has been caught up in government red tape including repeated requests for the company to revise its business plan. According to Thai newspaper The Nation, the minister said TOT was expected to call for international bids for procurement of the nationwide network in April. TOT’s existing 3G network in Bangkok has a capacity for 500,000 subscribers, a level which Ranongruk said she believed would be reached by February.