The Thai government has approved in principal a proposal by state-owned enterprise, TOT, to launch 3G services in the country via its recently-acquired Thai Mobile subsidiary. Reuters reports that TOT plans to invest THB29 billion (US$865 million) in building-out a 3G network using 1900MHz spectrum with the aim of launching commercial operations next year. According to a government spokeswoman, THB26.6 billion of the investment would be funded by government-to-government lending, with the remaining 2.4 billion via loan financing. She added that TOT plans to upgrade its existing 500 basestations with 3G technology next year and install 5,220 new basestations by 2012. The operator is targeting 4 million 3G users within five years of launch.

TOT took control of Thai Mobile – the failed 2G operator – last month, agreeing to buy-out CAT Telecom’s holding for THB2.4 billion over five years. After suffering several delays, the Thai government is reportedly keen to launch 3G in the country as soon as possible. Thailand’s three largest 2G operators – Advanced Info Service (AIS), DTAC and True Move – all plan to launch 3G services by year-end, notes Reuters. Currently, AIS is the only operator to have launched 3G HSPA services in the country, offering a limited service in Chiang Mai.