Line bid for mobile services faces block by NBTC
Line Thailand's plan to launch a dedicated SIM card package could be blocked by the national telecommunication regulator, which says the company must first obtain a mobile phone service provider licence.
The move followed Line Thailand's recent launch of a beta version of its mobile service to a small trial group. Line Mobile, running on DTAC's TriNet 3G and 4G networks, would grant subscribers free use of its instant messaging, calls and video chat services by dispensing with data charges. The service is planned to be offered in a variety of packages, from small volume to very large and unlimited data and voice, catering to all customer segments.
But the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) said this might qualify as operating a mobile phone service without a proper licence.
NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said the regulator yesterday wrote to Line Plus Corporation, a subsidiary of Line Thailand, and DTAC TriNet of Total Access Communication (DTAC), asking them to clarify the terms of the Line Mobile service by tomorrow.
Mr Takorn said the NBTC will then consider whether Line Mobile falls under the mobile licence definition or is a complementary package of DTAC TriNet.
A definition of the service is expected to be confirmed by next Tuesday.
"If we find that Line Mobile falls under the definition of a licence of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), the company must apply for a licence according to the 2001 Telecom Business Act before operating the business," Mr Takorn said.
An MVNO is a company that provides mobile services but lacks its own mobile network.
"I and my team strongly believe Line Mobile is not just a complementary package or marketing channel, but is a kind of MVNO," Mr Takorn said, adding that the service was introduced last year in Japan, where it is classed as an MVNO business.
If Line Mobile is approved, Thailand would become the second country to operate the service.
Previously, a DTAC source said the service would benefit both Line and DTAC.
"Line is a recognised brand in Thailand, and to have Line on our network also allows DTAC to be better known by consumers," the source said.