By USANEE MONGKOLPORN
BRITISH COMPANY Lycamobile and Enabling Asia Tech from Malaysia have approached state telecoms company TOT on possible partnership deals, said Rungsun Channarukul, TOT’s senior executive vice president for the mobile unit.
Lycamobile wants to be the state agency’s MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) partner, while the Malaysian firm would be TOT’s mobile virtual network aggregator (MVNA).
An MVNO leases spectrum bandwidth from a major telecommunication operator to provide cellular service, while an MVNA leases a bulk of bandwidth from a telecom operator and resells it to MVNOs at a competitive price.
Lycamobile is an international MVNO with more than 16 million customers across 21 countries. Enabling Asia Tech has a vision to become the preferred MVNA in Asia’s MVNO industry.
A source at the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission said Enabling Asia Tech was in the process of applying for an MVNA licence from the NBTC. If granted, it will be the first MVNA licence holder in Thailand.
Enabling Asia Tech already has an MVNO operation in Thailand. The Malaysian firm is a major shareholder of Enabling Asia Tech Thailand, which in turn wholly owns Mobile-8 Telecom Thailand. That company operates an MVNO business under a TOT partnership and offers cellular service under the Buzzme brand.
The Enabling Asia Tech group took over IEC Technology from the SET-listed company International Engineering and renamed it Mobile-8 Telecom Thailand. It also changed the name of the IEC 3G cellular brand to Buzzme.
The MVNO market in Thailand is small. Except for RealMove, which is the major MVNO, all of the small MVNOs together have fewer than 500,000 subscribers. There are nearly 90 million mobile-phone subscribers in Thailand.
TOT has wholesaled 80 per cent of its bandwidth on the 2.1-gigahertz spectrum to Advanced Wireless Network (AWN), a subsidiary of Advanced Info Service, for AIS to provide its own cellular service.
TOT has 5,320 cellular sites on its 2.1GHz network nationwide. Under the TOT-AWN partnership, AWN has to help TOT secure a total of 20,000 sites on the 2.1GHz network within three years, starting from last year.
Earlier a group of Thai MNVOs asked the NBTC to support them by relaxing some regulations. The group also wanted the commission to ask TOT and CAT to lower their wholesale bandwidth prices to make them more competitive against the three incumbent mobile-telecom companies.
There are about 40 MVNO licence holders in Thailand but only a few of them are active, including RealMove, The White Space, Samart i-Mobile, Data CDMA, Loxley, and Mobile-8.