Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) will launch its long-awaited 3G (third-generation) mobile network early next year in the city-state’s central business district, the company said in a statement Wednesday.

SingTel will invest S$220 million (US$125 million) in building its Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) network which will offer data transmission speeds of up to 384Kbps, the company said in its statement.

The service will be launched for users equipped with dual-mode 3G W-CDMA and GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) handsets, so that 3G users can easily switch over to the conventional GSM networks. Those handsets will be ready for the launch, SingTel said.

SingTel has identified four key applications – video streaming, video messaging, videoconferencing and online gaming, SingTel Mobile Chief Executive Officer Lucas Chow said in the statement.

Following the initial launch of the service, SingTel will build out its 3G network to cover all of Singapore by the end of 2004, to comply with license conditions laid down by telecommunications regulator Infocomm Development Authority (IDA). The contract to build the network has been awarded to Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson, SingTel said.

The other 3G licensees in Singapore, StarHub Pte. Ltd. and Mobile One (Asia) Pte. Ltd. (M1), are also preparing for 3G launches.

M1 will spend S$75 million this year on 3G, and another S$75 million next year to complete nationwide coverage. It will launch 3G trials in the fourth quarter of this year with a commercial launch expected around the middle of next year.

But all three companies have argued against the fixed end-2004 deadline imposed by IDA for rolling out 3G services, citing a need to align capital investment with market demand.

“Undoubtedly, there is adequate time to complete a full 3G WCDMA system by 2004,” StarHub said in a statement earlier this year. “However, IDA’s decision will eliminate, as a practical matter, certain technology paths, including Enhanced Data rates for Global Evolution (EDGE). In our opinion, it is unwise to eliminate these options at this time as this may translate to higher costs for consumers in the long run.”