Looking to launch a MVNO in Thailand? Here’s some useful information

Here’s some useful information if you are looking to launch a MVNO in the land of smiles.

If you are looking to launch a MVNO in Thailand, we have created a high level overview with information on the Thai mobile market such as, current players, spectrum and subscribers – but also regulatory information regarding MVNOs i.e. license fees, interconnection charges (IC), types of MVNOs allowed in Thailand, retail pricing cap, and much more.

We hope this will provide you with a better overview of the market, and help you in building your business case. We are always open, and interested in talking about your project, and how we can work together to make it a success.

CONTENTS
THAILAND'S MOBILE MARKET

Thais are truly digital, and love their mobile phones and data. In fact they love it so much, that they spent an average of 5 hours and 13 minutes per day using mobile internet.

But don’t just take our word for it, that Thailand is attractive. 39.80 million people visited Thailand in 2019. Some visitors and nearby neighbors in the millions, have also find it attractive to live and work in, creating a large variety of ethnic segments in the land of 69 million people.

SMEs, startups, giant enterprises and public organizations moving towards digital transformation are plenty, and the backbone of Thailand’s goal of becoming a regional leader in the digital economy.

The mobile operators are designed for distribution of mass market telecom services, but with a mobile penetration of 136 percent the logic is shifting from the current supply focus, into a demand driven reality.

Consumers in today’s digital economy require personalized, and innovative telecom services, but the mobile operators continue to deliver one-size fits all service and offers.

Likewise, enterprises are increasingly demanding complete lifecycle services to support their digital business models, but are met with the usual standard offers of connectivity from the mobile operators.

Globally, and especially in the Asia Pacific region, wholesale business is growing as MVNOs brings in innovative services and promotions targeting niche segments, and generating significant value to all stakeholders.

Millions of devices and people requiring tailor made connectivity services, are a perfect match for the agility, innovation and niche focus MVNOs provide.

THAILAND'S MOBILE MARKET KEY STATISTICS Q3 2020

0

Population

As of 2020

0

Mobile Connections

As of Q3 2020

0

Mobile Penetration

As of Q3 2020

0

HHI

Lacks competition

0

Mobile Service Revenue

($10 Billion) EOY 2019

0

Blended ARPU

($8.22)

0

Prepaid Market Share

As of Q3 2020

0

Data Usage

per subscriber/month

THE PRIVATE MOBILE OPERATORS

There are three private mobile operators in the market:

AIS
AIS

(Advanced Info Service)

0

Mobile Subscribers

As of Q3 2020

TRUE
TrueMoveH

(TrueMove H)

0

Mobile Subscribers

As of Q3 2020

DTAC
DTAC

(Total Access Communication)

0

Mobile Subscribers

As of Q3 2020

Each has a set of subsidiaries, acting as license holders on various spectra, but branding services under their main brand:

  • AIS Group: AIS, AWN, AIN, ABN, DPC,
  • True Corporation: TrueMove , RealMove , TrueMove H Universal Communication (TUC).
  • DTAC Group: DTAC TriNet, DTN,

None of the three are hosting MVNOs on their networks, despite their licenses stating that minimum 10% of capacity must go to MVNOs, as described in the Notification Regarding Mobile Virtual Networks Service B.E. 2556 (2013) and in the updated notification as of July 20, 2020.

Chart 1: AIS, TRUE, DTAC Mobile Subscribers Development – Q1 2017 to Q3 2020

For a more detailed view, click on the small colored squares below the chart to include/exclude operators.

THE TWO STATE-OWNED TELECOM OPERATORS

There are two state owned telecom operators in Thailand: Communications Authority of Thailand (CAT) Telecom, and Telephone Organization of Thailand (TOT). The two operators are the only ones having MVNOs on their networks.

CAT
CAT Telecom

(CAT Telecom Public Company Limited)

0

Mobile Connections

As of Q3 2020

TOT
TOT

(TOT Public Company Limited)

0

Mobile Connections

As of Q3 2020

The network coverage and wholesale pricing by the two state enterprises are heavily influenced by the three private operators, due “quasi-MVNO” and network agreements with the three.

The two, was merged on January 7, 2021, into a new state enterprise, named National Telecom Company Limited (NT)

Chart 2: Mobile Subscribers at: MY CAT, TOT Mobile and the three MVNOs  as of Q3 2020

For a more detailed view, click on the small colored squares below the chart to include/exclude operators.

THE MOBILE VIRTUAL NETWORK OPERATORS (MVNOs)

The two state enterprise operators had three active MVNOs on their networks as of Q3 2020

Penguin SIM
MVNO Penguin SIM

(By Whitespace Co., Ltd.)

0

Active SIMs

As of Q3 2020

iKool 3G
MVNO iKool

(By Loxley Pcl.)

0

Active SIMs

As of Q3 2020

Feels
MVNO Feels

(By Feels Telecom Corporation)

0

Active SIMs

As of Q3 2020

The three active MVNOs in the market as of Q3 2020 are:

  • Penguin SIM by the company Whitespace (Host CAT Telecom and TOT)
  • ikool3G by the company Loxley. (Host TOT)
  • Feels by the company Feels Telecom (Host TOT)

In addition, NTT Communication (Thailand), is also using a MVNO license and setup to provide mobile services to some of its business clients in Thailand.

a2network (Thailand) Co., Ltd. is reselling SIMs from AIS and TRUE, bundled with its own brand “Berrymobile” to Japanese visitors and expats in Thailand.

In mid 2019 the MVNO MyWorld 3G changed its name to MYWorld but has not recorded active SIMs since June 2019.

The MVNO Penguin SIM, which started out as a MVNO on CAT Telecom, entered into an agreement with TOT to be able to provide 4G services.  CAT Telecom is not able to provide MVNOs with 4G services due to contract obligations with TRUE.

The three private operators all have MVNO licenses and are setup up on the two state enterprises as “Quasi MVNOs” sharing networks and capacity.

Chart 3: MVNOs: Penguin SIM, iKool3G, MyWorld3G, Feels – SIMs with active users from Q1 2018- Q3 2020

For a more detailed view, click on the small colored squares below the chart to include/exclude operators.

A HIGHLY CONCENTRATED MARKET - LACKING COMPETITION

The three private operators, AIS, TRUE and DTAC – enjoy complete market dominance with a combined 97% market share of the 91.1 million total mobile connections in the market. The Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (HHI) is 3,390 – showing a highly concentrated market lacking competition.

Chart 4: Mobile Operators market share by subscribers as of Q3 2020.

For a more detailed view, click on the small colored squares below the chart to include/exclude operators.

🟌🟌🟌

THAILAND'S NATIONAL REGULATORY AUTHORITY (NBTC)

The telecommunication and broadcasting sector in Thailand is regulated by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC). The NBTC became the overall regulatory body in place of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) in 2011.

The Non Facilities Based Business Licensing Bureau 2 – at the NBTC compound is responsible for MVNO and IoT license applications.

Non Facilities Based Business Licensing Bureau 2
87 Soi 8 (Soi Sailom) Phaholyothin Road, Samsennai Phayathai. Bangkok 10400.
Telephone: +66 (0) 2271 0151-60 and Fax:+66 (0) 2279 1244

Google Map Link

3G/4G RETAIL PRICE CAP

With the auctioning of the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz spectrum in Thailand – the NBTC introduced a maximum retail pricing cap in the market with lower prices on 4G services than 3G, and also changed from charging voice calls per minute to seconds.

Table 1: Reference Rate for 3G/4G services on 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz

Spectrum/GenerationVOICE
(THB/minute)*
DATA
(THB/MB)
SMS
(THB/SMS)
MMS
(THB/MMS)
2100 MHz (3G)
Must not exceed
0.820.281.333.32
900/1800 MHz (4G)
Must be lower than
0.690.261.153.11

*All voice calls must be charged on a per-second basis.

The construction of a new unified tariff regulation scheme is underway. This transition should result in a regulation policy that corresponds to the current economic state and the convergence of technologies.

ANNUAL LICENSE FEE

In December 2017, the NBTC announced a new fee scheme for mobile network operators (MNOs) and mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) where Annual Revenue determines the fee rate as follows:

Table 2: Reference table for Annual License Fee

Annual Revenue (In THB/million)FEE
THB 0 – 100 million0.125% of revenue
THB 101 – 500 million0.25% of revenue
THB 501 – 1,000 million0.50% of revenue
THB 1,001 – 10,000 million0.75% of revenue
THB 10,001 – 25,000 million1.00% of revenue
THB 25,001 – 50,000 million1.25% of revenue
THB 50,000 million and up1.5% of revenue
ADDITIONAL FEES
  • Numbering fee: Mobile operators and MVNOs in Thailand are currently paying the regulator a mobile number fee of:

THB 1.00 per mobile number per month (First number allocation)

THB 2.00 per mobile number per month (Additional allocation)

The NBTC meeting No. 17/2019 on 4 October 2019, suggest a new numbering fee structure to be set at the rate of: THB 1.62 per number per month.

For those who already had mobile numbers allocated, and holds no more than 5 million numbers (as of the effective date of announcement), the NBTC suggest a two year transition period with a fee of THB 1.00 / number / month, and THB 1.62 / number/ month on additional allocation.

  • MVNO License request processing fee THB 5,000 + 7% VAT = THB 5,350.
  • Mobile operators (not MVNOs) also pays 2.5% of revenue as Universal Service Obligation (USO) fee.
INTERCONNECTION CHARGE (IC)

In 2016 the NBTC issued the: Notification regarding the Reference Interconnection Charges B.E. 2557 (2014), which applies the calculation method, according to the Notification regarding the standard method for Calculating Interconnection Charges (IC).

The NBTC updated the rates on December 17, 2019. The new rates have been added in table below, and will be effective from January 2020.

UPDATE: The NBTC has called for a public hearing on the its draft regarding the calculation of telecommunication network interconnection rates for 2021. The period of public hearing is from 27 May – 30 June 2021. More information available here

Table 3: Reference Rate for Interconnection (IC) Services

ServicesNetwork Interconnection ServicesReference Rate for Interconnection Services
Jan 2017 –
Dec 2017
Jan 2018 –
Dec 2018
Jan 2020 –
Dec 2020
MobileMobile Call Origination0.27 (THB/min)0.19 (THB/min)0.13 (THB/min)
MobileCall Termination0.27 (THB/min)0.19 (THB/min)0.13 (THB/min)
MobileCall Transit0.03 (THB/min)0.03 (THB/min)0.02 (THB/min)
FixedCall Origination0.31 (THB/min)0.28 (THB/min)0.20 (THB/min)
FixedCall Termination0.31 (THB/min)0.28 (THB/min)0.20 (THB/min)
FixedCall Transit0.16 (THB/min)0.15 (THB/min)0.12 (THB/min)
FixedCall Termination for Local Call0.83 (THB/min)0.75 (THB/min)0.43 (THB/min)
SPECTRUM USED FOR MOBILE SERVICES

TOT operates 3G/4G services on 2100 MHz where it has 15 MHz bandwidth, and on 2300 MHz (4G LTE-TDD) where it has 65 MHz bandwidth. At the auction in February 2020, TOT secured 400MHz bandwidth on the 26GHz spectrum.

AIS has partnered with TOT for renting capacity on TOT’s 2100 MHz spectrum. As part of the agreement TOT obtained more base stations, and now has more than 21.500 base stations providing 3G and 4G on 2100 MHz.

DTAC has also partnered with TOT to roll-out its own and TOT’s 4G TDD LTE on TOT’s 2300 MHz with 17.400 base stations end of 2019.

CAT Telecom operates 3G services on 850 MHz where it has 15 MHz bandwidth, which is shared with TRUE, who via their subsidiaries use a MVNO setup, to rent most of CAT Telecom’s capacity.

CAT Telecom also have access to TRUE’s spectrum for providing 4G services – however this agreement is only for CAT Telecom’s own retail service (MY CAT) and not available to CAT Telecom’s MVNO’s.

At the auction in February 2020, CAT Telecom secured two slots of 2×5 MHz on the 700MHz spectrum

Spectrum and (bandwidth) held by the mobile network operators in Thailand as of February 2020

  • AIS spectrum: 700 MHz (30MHz), 900 MHz (20MHz), 1800 MHz (40MHz), 2100 MHz (*60MHz), 2600 MHz (100MHz), 26 GHz (1200MHz). Total bandwidth: 1450 MHz
  • TRUE spectrum: 700 MHz (20MHz), 850 MHz (**30MHz), 900 MHz (20MHz), 1800 MHz (30MHz), 2100 MHz (30MHz), 2600 MHz (90MHz), 26 GHz (800MHz). Total bandwidth: 1020 MHz
  • DTAC spectrum: 700 MHz (20MHz), 900 MHz (10MHz), 1800 MHz (10MHz), 2100 MHz (30MHz), 2300MHz (***60MHz), 26 GHz (200MHz). Total bandwidth: 330 MHz
  • TOT spectrum: 2100 MHz (30MHz), 2300 MHz (60MHz), 26 GHz (400MHz). Total bandwidth: 490 MHz
  • CAT spectrum: 700 MHz (20MHz), 850 MHz (30MHz). Total bandwidth: 50 MHz

*rental of capacity on TOT’s 2100 MHz.
**rental of capacity on CAT Telecom’s 850 MHz.
***rental of capacity on TOT’s 2300 MHz (4G TDD LTE)

Spectrum for Internet of Things (IoT)

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) approved the 920-925 MHz spectrum to be used for the Internet of Things (IoT) in July 2017.

Although the spectrum is unlicensed, Internet of Things (IoT) service provider must obtain one of two license –  see License for Internet of Things (IoT) Service Providers, below.

🟌🟌🟌

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Mandatory SIM Registration

SIM registration is mandatory in Thailand via a biometric verification system (face recognition or a fingerprint verification)., and the costs for the NBTC approved scanners is on the MVNO/operator.

The selling and registration of SIM cards online is not allowed. Customers have to obtain the SIM card and register in person.

SIM Card Cap

Each individual subscriber can obtain a maximum of five SIM cards from each of the mobile phone service providers. If the subscriber wants to buy more than five SIM cards, the service provider is required to report the purchases to the NBTC office.

Number Allocation Limit for MVNOs

Until recently, when an MVNO applied for mobile numbers for the first time, it was allocated a maximum 200,000 by the NBTC. It could apply for additional numbers only after at least 70% of the original allocation was sold out. NBTC has increased the initial allocation lot for MVNOs to 500,000.

Prepaid validity

Minimum of 30 days extension on top-up and can be accumulated for 365 days.

The operators announce to their customers that they reserve the right to cancel the service if the customers does not top-up, make or receive calls for 3 months.

SIM Card holding period

NBTC’s holding period for inactive prepaid SIM cards require the MVNOs and operators to keep inactive SIM cards open for a minimum of 90 days for receiving incoming calls. After the initial 90 days, the MVNOs/operators are required to hold the SIMs and “clean” them for another 90 days before reselling them.

Note, that the MVNO/operator still have to pay the number fee of THB 2.00 per month/per number to the NBTC for the 6 months (180 days) the SIM card/number is in the holding period.

Mobile Number Portability (MNP)

On the 3rd of August 2009, Thailand’s National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) passed the Regulation on Mobile Number Portability (“MNP”), which was announced in the Royal Gazette and became effective the following day.

The Regulation allow customers to switch between mobile operators including MVNOs, while keeping their existing number.

To facilitate this, the mobile operators, Advanced Info Service Pcl. (AIS), Total Access Communication Pcl. (DTAC), True Corp Pcl. (TrueMove), as well as the two state-owned mobile operators TOT Pcl. and CAT Telecom Pcl. invested in a clearing house operating as a joint consortium with a shareholding of 20% each.

Clearing House for Number Portability Co., Ltd. has a registered capital of THB 2,000,000, divided into 20,000 ordinary shares with a par value of THB 100 per share. Details of shareholders are as follow:

1. Advanced Info Service Plc. 20% shares
2. Total Access Communication Plc. 20% shares
3. True Move Co., Ltd. 20% shares
4. CAT Telecom Plc. 20% shares
5. TOT Plc. 20% shares

The new MNP system in place today, requires only one day to activate. The customer dials *151* plus their ID card or passport number. A code is sent and confirms the request was received.

Denying Mobile Number Portability

The operators may only deny the application to switch based on the following grounds:

  • If the number was illegally acquired;
  • For national security reasons;
  • If the number is subject to a legal procedure, seizure or any lawful order.

The number must be registered under the same name as the person wishing to transfer. Prepaid customers should use up their account balance as credit and validity remaining are not transferable.

For most subscribers, their mobile number is akin to their identity, and being able to keep the number has made switching operators easy. To fight migration of subscribers, operators have to improve their service offering, encouraging a new level of competitiveness among operators.

🟌🟌🟌

LAWS, NOTIFICATIONS & ANNOUNCEMENTS
Types of Telecom Licenses in Thailand

The Telecommunications Business Act of 2001 laid down the rules for Thailand’s telecommunications industry by requiring telecoms operators to obtain a license from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

The Act classified telecommunication licenses into the three following categories.

Type One License: Being a license granted to the telecommunications business operator who operates without his or her own network for telecommunications services which are deemed appropriate to be fully liberalized.

The Commission shall grant a License once notified by a person who intends to operate such business.

Note! MVNOs are today under Type one licenses.

Type Two License: being a license granted to the telecommunications business operator who operates with or without his or her own network for telecommunications services intended for a limited group of people, or services with no significant impacts on free and fair competition or on public interest and consumers.

The Commission shall grant a License once a person who intends to operate such business has completely fulfilled the standard criteria prescribed in advance in notification of the Commission.

Type Three License: being a license granted to the telecommunications business operator who operates with his or her own network for telecommunications services intended for general public, or services which may cause a significant impact on free and fair competition or on public interest, or a service which requires special consumer protection.

A person who intends to operate such business can commence the operation only after he or she is approved and granted a license by the Commission.

License for Internet of Things (IoT) Service Providers

Although the 920-925 MHz spectrum is unlicensed, IoT service provider must obtain one of two telecommunications license:

Type One License: Those who provide telecommunication services without their own network (Non-facility-based service provider) must have a telecommunications license type one.

Type Three License: Those who provide telecom-based service providers (Facility-based service providers) must have a telecommunications license type three.

Thailand’s Foreign Business Act (FBA)

In 2001, foreigners were not permitted to apply for type-two or three licenses under Thailand’s Foreign Business Act (FBA).

The applicant applying for type two and type three licenses had to be an organizations where Thai nationals held at least 75% shares and at least three quarters of the applicant’s firm directors, and the person authorized to sign any binding commitments as a representation of the applicant firm had to be Thai nationals.

The 2001 Act was amended in 2006 under the supervision of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to allow foreigners to own a larger holding in a Thai telecommunications business.

The 2006 amendments repealed all the additional requirements of an applicant of type-two and type-three licenses, stating foreigners can now hold up to 49% in a telecommunications operator of type-two or type-three; no restrictions on the number of their foreign directors’ representation; and the authorized person signing binding commitments as a representation of the applicant firm can be a foreigner.

Notification regarding Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) 2013

The NBTC announced the Notification Regarding Mobile Virtual Networks Service B.E. 2556 (2013) to promote free and fair competition as well as to promote market entry for small entrant in order to escalate mobile service competition and provide service alternatives to customers.

The Notification requires the licensee (Type III mobile operators and mobile operators under concessions) who is a wholesaler to treat Mobile Network Operators (MVNOs) on a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory basis.

The rates of the services can be determined by the agreement between the wholesaler and MVNOs on a fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory basis, as well as must be reasonable comparing with the retail rates paid by the wholesaler’s customers.

In addition, this Notification has also prescribed criteria and procedures for contract negotiation and dispute resolution where an agreement cannot be reached among the licensees.

MVNO TYPES ALLOWED IN THAILAND

NBTC’s guideline on types of MVNO and which elements the MVNO is allowed. The NBTC categorizes MVNO types as Thin and Medium. Note that Full MVNO is not allowed in Thailand.

ELEMENTS
FULL
MVNO

MEDIUM
MVNO
THIN
MVNO
SPECTRUM
NoNoNo
NETWORK ELEMENTS
  
Switching and data networkBTS/Node BN/A NoNo 
BSC/RNCN/A NoNo 
MSC/GMSCN/A NoNo 
SGSNN/A NoNo 
GGSNN/A No No
Subscriber Registration, Provisioning,
VAS, Internet, Applications
HLR/AUC/EIRN/A NoNo 
Voice MailN/A YesNo 
SMSCN/A  YesNo 
VASN/A  YesNo 
INN/A Yes No 
IP RouterN/A Yes No 
Retail ElementsBillingN/A  Yes Yes 
Customer CareN/A Yes  Yes 
Customer OwnershipN/A Yes  Yes 
Tariff & Product DevelopmentN/A Yes  Yes 
Brand visibility to end userN/A Yes  Yes 
Retail saleN/A Yes  Yes 
SIM BRANDINGN/A Yes  Yes 
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
How can we help you?

If you have any questions, please fill out the form and a member of our team will get in touch with you. We are always open for talks on how we can add value to your business.

Looking for a World-Class MVNA MVNE MVNO Consultant?