Thailand aims to boost MVNO market

The chairman of Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), Dr Sarana Boonbaichaiyapruck, has outlined some urgent policies that will be accelerated in 2024, including a number aimed at supporting the launch of new MVNOs in the market.

The MVNO-focused policies includes the acceleration and implementation of a scheme called One Region, One Mobile Virtual Network Operator. This aims to add at least seven regional MVNOs (one for each region in Thailand) to the market by 2026.

With this in mind, plans have been announced for the creation and promotion of an easy-to-connect MVNA/MVNE platform to enable and support the introduction of new MVNOs in Thailand.

The hope is that this move will increase options and services for the country’s people and, over time, reduce the rates of the regional MVNOs by at least 20% compared to the plans of the True Corporation and Advanced Info Service (AIS) duopoly. There is a third mobile network operator, National Telecom (NT), but it only has a very small presence in the mobile market.

The NBTC is also aiming for out-of-area rates and interregional fees that suit the cost of living in such areas. Its conditions will make sure the two large mobile network operators cannot own more than 25% of shares in a regional MVNO.

Will the market sustain these new entrants against AIS and True Corp, which, the Bangkok Post points out, together represent more than 96% of total subscribers in the market? And will the major operators want to rent their network capacity to MVNOs at a low fee? The NBTC's proposed regulations seem to imply they may have little choice.

As for opportunities, MVNOs may have trouble competing with larger rivals in the mass market but there could be business opportunities in the private 5G market.

All of this remains to be seen, however. So far the existing MVNOs in Thailand have an estimated combined subscriber base of under 40,000 in a country of nearly 70 million people.

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