Thailand's MVNOs face a wipeout

27 Jul 2015
Daily News

Thailand’s deadline for registration of prepaid SIM cards comes into effect on July 31 and with days to go, it is the smaller MVNO operators who are struggling to get their users registered and comply or risk having their SIM cards deactivated.

While the big three operators have managed to get the bulk of their SIM cards registered through their numerous sales channels and 7-11 convenience store, despite problems with scammers and identity theft, MVNOs have struggled to make headway with registration due to their lack of footprint.

The numbers however were quite shocking. Despite being the first to launch 3G, TOT’s largest MVNO Samart i-Mobile 3GX has around 400,000 subscribers, 380,000 of which are pre-paid. Of these, only 20% have registered their SIM cards with identification less than a week before the cut-off deadline.

Much of the confusion has been put down to a late change in registration rules. At first, it was understood that only outgoing calls would be blocked without registration, but not data, hence the complacency, according to Samart’s general manager, Teerapon Asawatitanon.

The situation with other MVNOs is even more grim. Loxley’s i-Kool is telling users to go and register at its office or a very short list of shops. IEC’s Mojo 3G has similarly invited users to go and register at its office or a chain of bookstores with just 30 branches in the country.

CAT Telecom does not have that problem, though that is because its MVNO is the country’s third largest telco, TrueMove.

NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasit has said that in total, 62 million of the country’s almost 90 million prepaid SIM cards have been registered.

However, it is unclear what this registration process will accomplish in terms in terms of national security as previously it was possible for anyone to register themselves with agent usernames and passwords that were widely available on Thai webboards. The NBTC only belatedly in May this year tightened up the registration process, closing the gate after the horse had already bolted.

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