Line Mobile says it is not linked with Line Thailand
Line Mobile it is not affiliated with Line Thailand but is linked with DTAC TriNet (DTN), a subsidiary of Total Access Communication (DTAC), which paid an undisclosed one-time fee to use the Line brand.
Ariya Banomyong, managing director of Line Thailand, said DTN wants to use the brand to provide digital mobile service on a new brand with a lower airtime price.
Line Mobile offers its customers use of free Line services including Line Messenger, Line Calls, Line Video, and Line TV without data quota losses.
Mr Ariya would not divulge the price DTN paid to Line to use its brand, but said DTN manages all online billing systems for voice and data service itself and it does not have a revenue-sharing agreement with Line or Line Thailand.
The free Line services for Line Mobile users are subsidised by DTN.
Line Mobile launched its digital mobile service last week, saying it is an independent team owned by DTN in collaboration with Line Thailand. The voice and data services are operated by DTN.
The launch of Line Mobile has drawn criticism from its rivals at to whether the service needs to apply for a mobile licence or a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) licence. An MVNO is a mobile operator that operates without its own telecom network but leases network capacity to provide mobile service.
Last week, two of the major mobile operators -- Advanced Info Service (AIS) and True Move -- submitted letters to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) urging it to have a clear resolution on whether Line Mobile can operate service without a licence from the regulator.
The NBTC called on Line Mobile's executives to clarify its service and business model. NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said a Line Mobile executive confirmed he or she would meet with NBTC today.
Mr Ariya is not saying how much DTN paid to Line to use the brand. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)
The regulator has set up a working panel to clarify Line Mobile's service model within 30 days. The panel plans to call on related parties including AIS and True Move to share their opinions before it reaches a conclusion.
A source at a major mobile operator said if the NBTC decides Line Mobile can continue providing service without an MVNO licence, it could lead to two scenarios. Any operator (that holds a mobile licence from the NBTC) can copy Line Mobile's model by collaborating and renting network capacity from the operator, providing service without paying for a licence, said the source.
"The state may get less benefit from a licensing fee because the collaboration will earn significant revenue, but they don't pay a licensing fee to NBTC," said the source.
AIS and True Move may plan to fight with Line Mobile by managing the network to be low-quality, or technically disturbing Line Mobile's users through the network, said the source.