3G services should be available in Thailand within the next six to twelve months, according to a Bangkok Post report that cites comments from Information and Communications Technology Minister Mun Patanotai. In a speech yesterday to the country’s Post Forum on plans to introduce 3G, Patanotai is reported to have said that 3G services would be offered commercially before the end of this year and before Vietnam sees similar rollout.

With 3G services already available in neighbouring Cambodia and Laos, Patanotai commented that internal disputes between the market’s main players are holding up deployment of 3G in Thailand. However, a separate report from the Bangkok Post said that a long-running dispute between TOT and CAT Telecom over ownership of Thai Mobile has been “tentatively settled.” According to the report, TOT has agreed to buy CAT’s 42 percent ownership of Thai Mobile for 2.4 billion baht (US$77 million). The agreement is expected to be submitted to the boards of each state enterprise for approval this week. Last month, the GSMA called on Thailand to issue new 3G licenses in an effort to improve the availability of broadband services in the country, which currently have a penetration rate of only 2.2 percent. Thailand has a mature 2G market with 56.2 million subscribers, representing a mobile penetration of 88.3 percent according to Wireless Intelligence data, one of the highest in the Asia-Pacific region.