From 0 to 60 in 10 years

From 0 to 60 in 10 years

Congratulation, and a warm welcome to Data in Motion, on becoming the 60th member of the ever growing group of big and small, local and international companies, who have obtained a license to operate MVNO in Thailand.

In 2009, the national telecom regulator in Thailand, decided to allow five mobile virtual network operators, better known as MVNOs, to obtain a MVNO license to operate as such in Thailand.

Yesterday, ten years since the first five MVNO licenses was awarded in Thailand, the national telecom regulator (NBTC) awarded its 60th MVNO license to the company Data in Motion.

The Company was awarded the MVNO license number 1/62/002, valid from 23 January 2019 to 22 January 2024 (5 years with option to renew another 5 years), for MVNO reseller mobile phone service. The company itself was registered in 1998 with THB 10 million in capital, as a company selling IT equipment.

Judging from the high interest in MVNO licenses, one would expect that the Thai market is thriving with innovative services, a range of choices and great promotions – but it isn’t.

Instead, enterprises and end-users are meet with the standard offer of connectivity, and the usual subsidized handset from the three traditional operators. Sure, there is competition between the three on promotion packages, until about a week in, and then, all three are in sync again with the exact same offers, only difference is the color and logo on the pricing tables.

Out of the 60 MVNO licenses awarded since the introduction of MVNO in Thailand in 2009, only nine MVNOs has actually taken the limb and launched. Six remain more or less active with approximately 350,000 subscribers combined, of which the MVNO Penguin claims around 300,000.

There are issues and reasons for this, which has been highlighted here and here with more details.

It can be done

Some of the early Thai MVNO pioneers did manage to grow at a reasonable pace, despite all odds. i.e. the local handset importer (manufacture) i-mobile managed to grow its MVNO user-base to above 700,000 in 2014, until the interest in its handsets disappeared due to pressure from (other) Chinese handsets.

More recently, the MVNO Penguin has shown it can be done, and there is an interest and demand in the market for alternatives.

However the playing field is still not level, and a series of entry barriers remains in the market for the MVNOs.

Lost in another century

Although the regulator and government agencies, has been busy inviting private, and state enterprise operators to workshops on 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), machine-to-machine (M2M) and Digital Economy opportunities and collaboration to get every Thai on-board, it somehow seems, that the invitations to MVNO and IoT/M2M license holders, who are a vital part of such ecosystems in other countries, have been lost in a fax machine somewhere.

10-years patience should be awarded

Nevertheless, given that the regulator has sold 60 tickets to the fun ride now, but still haven’t opened the playground, we wish that the patience from these 60 companies be awarded with a 10-year anniversary gift from the NBTC, by calling for a long overdue public hearing and consultation, on how to level the playing field for mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) in Thailand with regulatory input.

Should you need some inspiration, there is a great portion of information and case stories available from your regulatory colleagues in the other markets, who have already held such public hearings and consultations, and most of all – acted accordingly.

Happy Anniversary!

Author: Allan Rasmussen
Managing director at Yozzo. Allan’s expertise includes the development and execution of growth strategies, market insights, trends and opportunities, new business models and strategies
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