Following an examination of Line Mobile’s business model, Thai regulator NBTC has ruled that the company does not require an MVNO licence.
Line Mobile offers voice and data services over third-placed operator dtac’s mobile network, but is a separate independent entity that is owned by a dtac subsidiary. The unit pays a royalty fee to Line Thailand.
Following controversy over Line Mobile’s status as a provider of mobile services, in September the NBTC began an inquiry into whether the unit’s business model was legal. The country’s two largest operators, AIS and True Move, demanded a ruling on whether Line Mobile could legally offer services without an operating licence.
In meetings with the regulator, Line Mobile executives have explained how all of the unit’s revenue is transferred to the dtac subsidiary, which holds an operating licence via dtac itself. This means that the government receives the necessary licensing fees.
In the face of previous criticism, dtac head Lars-Ake Norling described Line Mobile’s service as a marketing scheme and noted that it was not exempt from any government fees. Since the service is offered as a unit of dtac, he argued, it did not require an MVNO licence. While this claim was upheld by the NBTC, the regulator did order Line Mobile to bring its online registration system in line with current frameworks that require users to register at a service point with an ID card.