Thailand’s MVNO Market 2016 – Regulations, Licenses, MVNO Club

Thailand’s MVNO Market 2016

2016 started off with 39 MVNO licenses issued, and ended with 43. It was yet another year with zero MVNOs launched on AIS, DTAC and True, and still no updates from the regulator on promoting or supporting MVNOs.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC)’s Inspection and Evaluation Commission, also known as the “Superboard”, concluded in April that the regulator NBTC had failed in fostering more competition 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.

Here is a picture of what happened after that:

NBTC has done nothing to regulate or promote MVNO


Prior to Thailand’s 2100 MHz 3G auction in 2012, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) released a notification regarding Criteria and Procedure for the Spectrum.

The notification contains a paragraph regarding network capacity and obligations for Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO’s) in Thailand.

16.5 Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO)

16.5.1 The Licensee shall provide telecommunications network service with the minimum capacity of 10 percent of its networks to the MVNO who is not the Connected Person in the Shareholding Structure with any licensee when receiving such service request

As with the 2100MHz spectrum, the NBTC has also added a MVNO clause in the terms and condition for the 900MHz and 1800MHz licenses in 2015 and 2016

Clause 18 Service of Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO)

(1) The Licensee shall comply with the Commission’s Notification Regarding Mobile Virtual Network Operator Service B.E. 2556 (2013).

(2) The Licensee shall provide telecommunications network service at least 10 percent of its network’s capacity to MVNO(s) that is/are not the connected person(s) with any licensee under this Notification, upon receiving such service request.

All 900/1800/2100MHz licenses carry the same clause and terms regarding MVNOs, that the license holder must provide telecommunications network service of at least 10% of its network’s capacity to MVNOs.

Zero MVNOs have been able to launch on AIS, DTAC or True, since 2012 – despite the license terms saying the operators of 900, 1800 and 2100MHz have to provide at least 10 % capacity to MVNOs.

  • AIS alone has 3 x 10% unused MVNO capacity across 3 spectra (900 MHz, 1800 MHz, and 2100 MHz)
  • True also has 3 x 10% unused MVNO capacity across 2 spectra (900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz).
  • DTAC has 1 x 10% unused MVNO capacity (2100 MHz)

Five years with zero MVNOs launched on AIS, DTAC and True, represents a failure in normal market forces, which warrants intervention from the regulator.

Here is a picture of what NBTC did in 2016 to solve the issue:

NBTC has done nothing to push for MVNO access

However, the regulator had no issue when the operators filed for a MVNO license, in order to become a MVNO themselves on TOT or CAT Telecom.


In October 2015 Korkij Danchaivichit, deputy secretary-general of the NBTC said the NBTC was trying to promote the MVNO business, and it had hired the UK-based company InterConnect Communications to study ways to support MVNO.

2016 came and went, and here is a picture of the results – one year and 3 months later:

NBTC has done nothing to promote MVNO in Thailand


Despite a whole lot of nothing, there was one department at NBTC – or perhaps “boutique” is a more suitable name – who managed to keep selling MVNO license despite it all, ending 2016 with a total of 43 MVNO licenses issued in Thailand since 2009 …nine have launched.

Let’s take a moment to remember the trees who lost their life to provide paper for those licenses!


February 25, 2016 was the date, which saw CAT Telecom’s four MVNOs form their own MVNO Club. The four MVNOs are: i-mobile Plus and Open SIM of Samart Corp, MyWorld3G of Data CDMA, 168, and Penguin of the company WhiteSpace.

Watchai Vilailuck, president of Samart Corporation (i-mobile) is the club’s chairman and Chaiyod Chirabowornkul, CEO of WhiteSpace (Penguin) is the secretary of the Thailand MVNO Club.

In May 2016 the MVNO Club asked the NBTC to revise and relax some rules to increase the number of MVNOs and make it easier for them to run their business.

The club asked that the NBTC assign 1 million numbers to MVNOs on their first request and exempt them from the 70% rule.

Until recently, when an MVNO applied for mobile-phone numbers for the first time, it was allocated a maximum 200,000 numbers by the NBTC. It could apply for additional numbers only after at least 70% of the original allocation was sold out.

The club also wants the NBTC to lower the network interconnection charge for MVNOs, as well as having NBTC set up a special team to help MVNOs understand the regulations and listen to their problems.

NBTC deputy secretary-general Korkij Danchaivichit said the commission recently increased the initial allocation of phone numbers to MVNOs to 500,000 from 200,000.

In reply to lowering the network interconnection charges Korkij said the NBTC had considered lowering the annual license fee for all telecom license holders across the board.

Currently license holders are subject to an annual fee of gross revenue:

  • Those with annual revenue of up to THB 100 million are subject to an annual fee of 0.25%
  • Those with annual revenue of THB 100 million to 500 million are subject to an annual fee of 0.50%
  • Those with annual revenue of THB 500 million to 1 billion are subject to an annual fee of 1.00%
  • Those with annual revenue of THB 1 billion and up are subject to an annual fee of 1.50%

The interconnection fee was expected to be reduced to less than THB 0.20 a minute in 2017 from the THB 0.34 in 2016.


For 2017 we expect the regulator NBTC to step up to the plate and deliver on MVNO. Given that Thailand it entering “Thailand 4.0” the country needs MVNOs to:

  • Stimulate competition,
  • Efficient utilization of network resources,
  • Introduce new or better services aligned to lifestyle propositions currently unserved/underserved,
  • Promote investment opportunities for local and international businesses in the telecom market.

MVNOs are intended to support innovation, bridge digital divide, and contribute to the growth in the ICT sector to ensure the achievement of the broader industry and national economic objectives.

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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