Thai Mobile – the 3G subsidiary of state-owned operator, TOT – launched its first 3G services in the capital city, Bangkok, yesterday. According to a Bangkok Post report, the operator has 548 base stations up and running in Bangkok and surrounding areas in association with an MVNO partner, Samart I-Mobile. The services – in the 1900MHz band – require a user to buy a new SIM card and sign up for a 12-month subscription. However, the report notes that TOT has already given away 3G SIM cards and mobile handsets free to its existing 10,000 Thai Mobile customers. Under the cheapest package, customers pay THB199 (US$6) per month for 199 minutes of both voice and video calls, plus 199 megabits of data usage.

Speaking at a launch event yesterday, the Thai government’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Minister, Ranongruk Suwunchwee, said the second phase of the rollout should begin in April or May next year, following the culmination of the country’s long-delayed 3G auctions. TOT is reportedly to spend THB20 billion (US$30 million) in building out a further 3,800 3G base stations as part of this second phase. It also has a national roaming agreement in place with Advanced Info Service (AIS), Thailand’s largest mobile operator. AIS CEO Wichian Mektrakarn said yesterday that he hoped a strong consumer response to the Thai Mobile launch would spur the government to accelerate the long-awaited issuing of 3G licences.