MVNOs in Thailand EoY 2021

The MVNO Feels, is once again Thailand’s largest MVNO by active SIMs

While 2021 marked one new MVNO entry into the Thai market, the option for MVNOs to gain network access and negotiate wholesale pricing, went from two to only one with the merger of CAT Telecom and TOT – creating a monopoly on wholesale to MVNOs.

The four active MVNOs in the Thai market 2021 was:

  • Feels by the company Feels Telecom (Host: NT)
  • Penguin SIM by the company Whitespace (Host: NT)
  • ikool3G by the company Loxley. (Host: NT)
  • Redone by the company Redone Network (Thailand) Co., Ltd (Host NT) – launched in May 2021.

In addition, NTT Communication (Thailand), is also using a thin MVNO license 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 app  “Berrymobile” mainly to Japanese expats in Thailand.

The Big 3 operators; AIS, TrueMove and DTAC, all have MVNO licenses and are using the state enterprise telecom operator, National Telecom (NT) as host for their “Quasi MVNO setup” – sharing networks and capacity.

See also: Thailand’s Mobile Market End of Year 2021 

Active MVNO SIMs and a new leader

In Q4 2021, the MVNO Penguin lost -472 active SIMs, quarter-on-quarter (QoQ) and -4.112 compared to Q4 2020.

The oldest MVNO alive in Thailand, iKool3G had 2.219 active SIMs, -8 QoQ and -32 year-on-year (YoY) .

Feels managed to gain +15.987 active SIMs compared to last quarter and +18.114 YoY, and is thereby (again) Thailand’s largest MVNO by active SIMs.

Feels growth takes the combined amount of active MVNO SIMs to 54.629 – but still a very small drop in the ocean compared to the total 99.40 million active SIMs in the Thai market.

Figure 1: MVNO Feels, Penguin SIM (Whitespace), iKool (Loxley) and Redone – Active SIMs 2021

MVNO-Feels-PenquinSIM-iKool-Redone-Active-SIMs-Thailand-Q42019-Q42021

Figure 2: MVNO Feels, Penguin SIM (Whitespace), iKool (Loxley) and Redone – Active SIMs 2021 per month

MVNO-Feels-PenguinSIM-iKool-Redone-Active-SIMs-Thailand-Monthly-Jan2021-Dec2021

Active MVNO SIMs - History

Penguin SIM by Whitespace has been on a downward spiral since its peak of 603.199 active SIMs in Q2 2018. WhiteSpace recently signed a memorandum of understanding with NT and the Taiwan-based Chunghwa Telecom (CHT) to provide 5G private networks through NT’s 26 GHz spectrum range.

Under the cooperation, NT provides the spectrum and network, CHT provides related devices and platforms, while The WhiteSpace provides related services – however the press release did not specify what “related service” was nor what is mean with CHT providing “platforms”.

Ikool is slowly bleeding its amount of active SIMs, while Feels has had some up and down swings, showing that it hasn’t yet been able to determine its sweet spot.

Figure 3: MVNO Penguin SIM (Whitespace) – Active SIM History Q1 2018 – Q4 2021

MVNO Penguin SIM (Whitespace) - Active SIM History Q1 2018 – Q4 2021

Figure 4: MVNO iKool by Loxley – Active SIM History Q1 2018 – Q4 2021

MVNO iKool by Loxley - Active SIM History Q1 2018 – Q4 2021

Figure 5: MVNO Feels – Active SIM History Q1 2019 – Q4 2021

MVNO Feels - Active SIM History Q1 2019 – Q4 2021

Gatekeepers

None of the Big 3 are hosting MVNOs, despite their license terms stating (since 2013), that they have to provide minimum 10% capacity to MVNOs. MVNOs have tried to discuss access with the Big 3 – but have been given a wholesale pricing ballpark that is not even near reality.

The two state owned telecom operators in Thailand: Communications Authority of Thailand (CAT) Telecom, and Telephone Organization of Thailand (TOT), was merged into a new state enterprise entity named National Telecom Plc or NT in short, at the beginning of the year.

The two operators (CAT Telecom and TOT), were the only ones hosting MVNOs on their networks with the merger, the host operator option for MVNOs in Thailand has now been limited to one – National Telecom.

However, due to the “Quasi MVNO setup” and network/capacity agreements with AIS, DTAC and TrueMove, the Big 3 are actually controlling the wholesale price that NT can provide to MVNOs and thereby able to control the market.

The proposed merger between TRUE and DTAC will see competition decline further in the Thai market which is already highly concentrated. MVNO remedies would normally be expected, as part of the merger according to international principles, but the telecom regulations in Thailand does not always seem to be in accordance with international principles but more based on politics.

Read more on the TRUE/DTAC merger here (updated regularly)

New MVNO entry

A new MVNO entry this year came from the Malaysian MVNO Redone, who launched its service in the market in May 2021 – as a Thai entity. The MVNO is selling postpaid offers.

However, oddly enough, no active SIMs was officially recorded since its launch at the regulator. Rather strange, as there must have been some active SIMs during the pre-launch test. But not a single active SIM was recorded at the regulator – neither a “start package” nor monthly.

UPDATE 23 February, 2022:

We have now received the active SIM number for Redone. End of Year (December 2021) the MVNO had 1.888 active SIMs.

In October, 2021 Redone had 1.154 active SIMs. It added 476 to end November with 1,630. (All postpaid).

Room for growth

Despite the Q4 growth in active SIMs from the MVNO Feels, the MVNO market in Thailand remains microscopic. The now defunct MVNO i-mobile did manage to achieve 700,000 subscribers. Likewise, Penguin SIM achieved 600,000 active SIMs until it took a dive.

The regulator, NBTC did revise the Notification on Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) in Thailand, following a round of public hearing but the words has not been followed up with action and some issues still remains.

There are still a large range of companies that have received MVNO license in Thailand (60+) – but haven’t launched yet.

Figure 6: Mobile subscribers/connections market share in Thailand • EoY 2021

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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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