i-mobile hangs up its MVNO business

Another Thai MVNO pioneer hangs up

I-Mobile, a subsidiary of Samart Corporation, and one of the first five MVNO pioneers to launch in Thailand on TOT’s 2100MHz in 2009, has submitted its notice to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) that they are hanging up their MVNO business.

Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), told Bangkok Post that i-mobile submitted the required documents asking to stop its MVNO service on TOT’s network in April.

NBTC will likely approve the exit request – however TOT, i-mobile and the NBTC must figure out how to handle the remaining (below) 10,000 users on the MVNO, as well the THB 100 million i-mobile owes for network capacity rental and numbering fees.

An issue that the regulator and TOT would be all too familiar with as seen in January, when TOT requested guidelines from the NBTC, to suspend the service with MCONZULT ASIA Co., Ltd the company behind the MVNO Mojo3G, on grounds that MCONZULT ASIA has defaulted on payments to TOT since early 2015.

Section 20 of the Telecommunications Act of 2001 stipulates that the licensee shall not suspend or terminate the service, in whole or in part, unless permitted by the Commission under the criteria and procedures prescribed by the Commission. If the licensee has to suspend or stop the service, it has to notify the NBTC in advance and provide a plan with measures to mitigate the users.

Samart i-Mobile has two MVNO licenses, one operating as i-Mobile Plus under a partnership with TOT and the other (Open SIM) under a MVNO partnership with CAT Telecom.


I-Mobile, like the other 4 MVNOs on TOT was handed a rough start as TOT’s 2100MHz 3G network roll-out was delayed several times.

When the five MVNO’s were given a license to operate back in 2010, TOT, had only 548 base-stations ready in Bangkok.

A year later just 1,000 base stations was ready for service. TOT was supposed to install 5,200 base-stations during phase 1 and complete the project by 2012. However the project finished with the 5,320 base station in late 2013 and never got to phase 2 (13-15,000 base stations).

Despite this, i-mobile manage to obtain 329,000 active MVNO subscribers end of September 2013, up 64% from end June 2013. Samart i-mobile was targeting a break-even for the MVNO in Q4 2013 at 500,000 cumulative subscribers and a THB 200 million net profit in 2014.

MVNO i-mobile subscribers Thailand

At its peak i-mobile claimed 700,000 subscribers in November 2014, which beside the operator sub-brand setup “TrueMove H”, is the most subscribers obtained so far by a pure MVNO in Thailand.

Last year, Samart signed an agreement to become an MVNO on the other state enterprise mobile operator CAT Telecom where subscribers on its MVNO OpenSIM was around 10,000, but have since declined to about 5,000.


i-mobile is survived on TOT’s 2100MHz by fellow and now only 2009 MVNO pioneer left, i-Kool (Loxley Public Co. Ltd) and newcomer Buzzme.

At the end of 2016 TOT, including the three MVNOs: i-Kool, Buzzme and now defunct Mojo3G, had a combined market share of just 0.18% representing 163,658 subscribers out of a total market size of 91 million.

i-Mobile’s exit adds a big mark to seven years of failed regulation and missing support from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) on MVNOs in Thailand.

As of this month the NBTC had sold 47 MVNO license in Thailand, only 13 have launched, 9 are left and 0 MVNOs have launched on the networks of AIS, DTAC or TRUE.

The Inspection and Evaluation Commission, also known as the “Superboard”, concluded in April 2015 that the NBTC had failed in fostering competition in the Thai telecom market by promoting newcomers to the mobile industry.

The Superboard found that the NBTC should issue regulations for mobile virtual network operators to support more of them in the industry, which would benefit consumers.

Nothing has happened since then

MVNO i-Mobile Plus


  • A subsidiary of Samart Corporation.
  • Host Network Operator: TOT.
  • Network: TOT3G 2100 MHz network.
  • Previously, named i-Mobile 3GX.
  • 200,000 active MVNO subscribers end of June 2013.
  • 329,000 subscribers as of September 2013.
  • 700,000 subscribers as of November 2015.
  • 10,000 subscribers as of June 2017.
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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