What’s driving APAC’s MVNO growth, and where are the new opportunities?

The following is an excerpt from Allan Rasmussen’s “Trends in Asia Pacific’s MVNO Market” presentation, from the Telecoms World Asia event, in Bangkok 27 March 2019.


  • Growth due to various national programs (Digital Country X, Smart Cities, Smart Villages, etc.)
  • Increased cross-border trade, new infrastructure, transportation and logistics, smart farming, etc.
  • Industry transformation 4.0 Automotive, Financial, Healthcare, Construction, Travel & Tourism, etc.)

The number of licensed cellular IoT connections in China stood at 672 million at the end of 2018, supporting various industrial and smart cities applications – GSMA Intelligence: The Mobile Economy China 2019 Report


  • Lower barriers to entry in some markets due to various programs promoting entrepreneurship, SMEs, and startups for the 5G ecosystem.
  • Un-served segments. I.e. MVNO wholesale support program in Korea and Japan = Getting everyone on-board
  • Regulators supporting open and healthy competition including mobile number portability (MNP).

Pro: Japan, Singapore, Malaysia. Hong Kong, Australia, China, Korea, Myanmar, Lao PDR.
Con: India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand.


  • As markets mature they become highly segmented. Opportunities in niche/segmented markets require unique offerings rather than just competing on price and bundles.
  • Higher bandwidth availability and smart handsets/device uptake with consumers seeking matching mobile-lifestyle services and offers.
  • New and changing segments, in an already diverse population, due to urbanization, income gaps, tech skills, social pecking order, new gender definitions, political, etc.

Top-up options available today, along with longer device replacement cycles, limits the customer value, of operators handset subsidies and contract programs


  • Entry of turnkey MVNE solutions reducing the MVNOs upfront investments, and decreases the time needed to launch and operate.
  • Multi-tenant platforms, and bulk purchase, resulting in Economies of scale, and thereby cost savings for the MVNO’s = Higher margins.
  • MVNOs getting access to telecom platforms enabling them to launch real-time innovative packages and services to compete in the markets.

Mitigating complexity Many companies, with a strong brand, an existing large customer base or distribution network, are interested in becoming MVNOs, but unfamiliar with telecom technology


  • Increasing demand in business traveling and regional tourism: e-SIM, Dual or Multi-IMSI, I.e. MVNO Snail Mobile and Telin 2-in-1 SIM.
  • MNO’s as MVNO’s to enter other markets via MVNO sub-brands i.e. China Mobile (CMLink) or Telkom Indonesia (Telin).
  • Open markets, free trade and cross-border co-operation = New markets and lower barriers to entry.

ASEAN Members: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Combined Population: 651 million


  • New and increased interest in partnering with MVNOs from the mobile operators, having witnessed case stories from Japan, Malaysia, and more recently in Singapore.
  • As markets mature, competition shifts from network quality and coverage, to capitalizing on market differentiation with innovative offers to specific segment needs.
  • MVNOs seen as front line special forces, who use their competitive edge, and own marketing cost to capture mutual market shares.

For BSNL in India, MVNO partners have become a vital part of its wholesale strategy. Same goes for CAT Telecom and TOT in Thailand, after end of their concession deals.

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