Axiata sets up MVNO in Thailand

Axiata’s VM Digital is the 40th company to receive a MVNO license in Thailand

VM Digital (Thailand) is the latest company to be granted a Mobile Virtual Network Operator license in Thailand. The MVNO license is valid from June 1st 2016 until May 31 2021.

VM Digital is the 40th company to receive a MVNO license in Thailand although only 8 have launched.

Last month, Axiata Digital Services Sdn Bhd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Axiata Group Bhd, completed the incorporation of VM Digital (Thailand) Co Ltd, as a private company limited with the minimum required registered share capital of one million baht (U$ 28,384) Axiata Group say VM Digital (Thailand) will be involved in operating all types of communications businesses.

Axiata Group Bhd. is based in Malaysia but also operates under the brands, Celcom, Dialog, Idea, M1, Robi, Smart and XL – in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore, and Sri Lanka with 244 million subscribers across its footprint.

Successful MVNO partnerships

Axiata is no stranger when it comes to MVNO operations. Opposite the mobile operators in Thailand, the Malaysian mobile operators have understood the benefits MVNOs bring and has been very active in launching MVNOs on their networks.

Being host operator to six MVNO partners covering niche segments in Malaysia, Celcom Axiata’s MVNO subscribers grew by more than 10%, ending the year 2015 with over 3 million subscribers out of Celcom Axiata’s total 12.25 million subscribers.

Celcom Axiata also holds share in the MVNOs: Merchant trade (20 percent), PLDT Malaysia/ Smart Pinoy (49 percent) and Tune Talk (35 percent). The latter has tried to launch on several occasions in Thailand, but seems to have settled as a reseller of TrueMove H (Thai MVNO) SIMs on AirAsia flights.

The MVNO setup in Thailand, is not the first Axiata Group investment into Thailand. Axiata held a 24% stake in the Thai handset distributor and mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Samart i-mobile. However, in 2014 Axiata sold back its entire shareholding to Samart i-Mobile for THB 2.87 billion ($88.69 million).

Paving the way for FreedomPop?

Recently (July 2015) Axiata was part of the U$10 million funding in to the US freemium MVNO FreedomPop, with the aim of seeing the MVNO expand its services into Asia.

Setting up and receiving a MVNO license in Thailand, indicates a future window has been opened for FreedomPop to expand its services, in to the heavy data user markets of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. However it remains to be seen if Axiata/FreedomPop would be able to convince any of the operators in Thailand on its freemium MVNO concept, considering AIS, DTAC and True haven’t launched any MVNOs on their network.

If the VM Digital MVNO is setup to launch services soon, we expect it will be via CAT Telecom’s network.

Author: Allan Rasmussen
Managing director at Yozzo. Allan is a MVNA/MVNE/MVNO specialist with hands-on experience from more than 60 projects in both competitive and greenfield markets. His expertise includes business case development, execution, launch and growth strategies. Advisor and consultant to mobile network operators, MVNA, MVNE, MVNO, National Regulatory Authorities, Government Agencies, Broadcast Companies, TMT Industry Associations, Innovation and Investment Banks.
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