Thailand’s MVNO Market 2018

Thailand’s MVNO Market 2018

A total of 60 MVNO licenses has been awarded in Thailand, nine of them have launched, and six remain more or less active in Thailand’s MVNO market with approximately 350,000 subscribers combined.

Up until the issuing of the country’s first 3G licenses in 2013, the mobile operators rented capacity under a concession model from the two state-owned network operators TOT and CAT Telecom.

In June 2013, the three traditional mobile operators; AIS, DTAC and TrueMove launched commercial 3G 2100 MHz services, and just five months later, 30 percent of the 90 million 2G customers in the country back then, had migrated to 3G.

With the introduction of a licensing scheme, state-run network operators, TOT and CAT Telecom, found themselves in a situation where they had to find new revenue streams, as service providers to compensate for the end of their concession revenue.

The final nail in the coffin for the concession model, came with the 4G auctions and licenses. Today AIS, DTAC and TrueMove enjoy complete dominance in the market with a combined 97.8% market share.

However, all three operators have made pseudo MVNO agreements with the state enterprise operators to secure more spectrum capacity access. TrueMove rents capacity on CAT Telecom, and vice versa, AIS rent and share capacity with TOT, while DTAC is rolling out a nationwide 4G LTE TDD network on 2300MHz for TOT, against renting 40% capacity itself.

TOT and CAT Telecom are the only network operators hosting MVNOs in Thailand, despite the notification in all 3G and 4G licenses since 2013, that the license holder must provide, at least 10% of its capacity to MVNOs.

Thailand's Mobile Market Highlights
  • Population:  69M
  • Smartphone users:  72%
  • Daily mobile usage:  4:56H
  • Data per user/month:  9GB
  • Mobile internet users:  45M
  • Prepaid / postpaid:  76% / 24%
  • Mobile penetration:  138%
  • Mobile ARPU:  THB 238
  • Total mobile subscribers:  92.7M
MVNO Market - Thailand

A total of 60 MVNO licenses has been awarded in Thailand. Nine MVNOs have launched since the introduction of MVNO in Thailand in 2009. Six remain more or less active with approximately 350,000 subscribers combined.

The MVNOs are:

  • Berrymobile
  • IEC3G (Buzzme)
  • i-Kool 3G (Loxley)
  • NTT Communications
  • Penguin (Whitespace)
  • MyWorld3G (Data CDMA)

2018 saw the MVNO 168 (formerly 365 Communication), cease its service. Despite investing heavily in marketing, the MVNO never managed to get the support needed from its host operator (CAT Telecom).

It was also the year where a mobile virtual network aggregator (MVNA) license was awarded to the company One Development looking to launch its MVNA and mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE) service into the market in 2019.

The MVNO Penguin, announced its expansion from being a MVNO only on CAT Telecom, to the network on the other state telecom operator TOT.

The move makes sense, as TOT will be the only host operator, offering 4G to MVNOs. Although CAT Telecom has its own 4G retail service, it is provided under a contract with TrueMove, which specifically says, the 4G network is only for CAT Telecoms own retail service.

The First Five

When the first five MVNO’s where given a license to operate 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 5,320 base station in late 2013 and never got to phase 2 (13-15,000 base stations).

Despite this, the MVNO, and local handset brand “i-mobile”, managed to obtain 329,000 active MVNO subscribers by the end of September 2013, up 64% from end June 2013.

At its peak in 2014, i-mobile claimed 700,000 subscribers. However, in the years that followed, a coup d’état, the introduction of forced mandatory SIM registration, and seeing its mobile handset brand lose steam to Chinese competitors was too much, and the MVNO lost almost all its subscribers.

i-mobile closed its MVNO business in June 2017 with under 10,000 subscribers, and is survived by fellow – and now only 2010 MVNO pioneer left, i-Kool3G under Loxley Public Co. Ltd.

TOT has since then teamed up with mobile operator AIS, on an agreement bringing TOTs 2100MHz network coverage nationwide with more than 20,000 base stations in total. TOT is also having DTAC roll out its 2300MHz with 4G LTE TDD. At the end of 2018 DTAC announced it had managed to setup 12,700 base stations, and expected nationwide coverage in 2019, well ahead of schedule.

TOT had required that DTAC build 1,769 4G base stations in the first year of operations (2017), increasing to 8,455, 14,994, 20,367 and 21,217, respectively.

Regulation

Besides approving MVNOs into the market and awarding licenses, the regulator NBTC has not been active in supporting MVNOs in the market.

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.

THAILAND • MVNO MARKET 2018

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THAILAND • MVNO MARKET SHARE HISTORY
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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