Southeast Asia is one of the world's largest and fastest growing regions, with a combined gross domestic product of around US$2.1 trillion according to World Bank 2012 estimates. Home to more than 600m inhabitants, the region is a place of diverse culture and population, making it a hotspot for MVNOs. The MVNO model is a service and customer-oriented model, focused on customer management, while most technical aspects of the business are left to MNOs. Most MVNOs target niche markets to avoid direct competition with MNOs and typically operate with less manpower. Generally, MVNOs in the region focus on four niche segments, namely budget, ethnic, business and youth.
The development of MVNOs greatly varies depending on the market, especially in a diverse region as Southeast Asia. However, we have identified four specific common factors that contribute to MVNOs' growth and development: 1) government regulations for mobile services, 2) mobile subscription demographics, especially growth rates, total mobile penetration and the prepaid share of total subscriptions, 3) availability of a critical mass and 4) MVNOs’ business models and value propositions.
The article presents the development of Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) in selected Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam, where substantial growth and several structural changes in the mobile market have been observed in the past 10 years. We don’t claim the list of MVNOs here is completely exhaustive, although we attempted to capture the main MVNO players and their activities in each of the countries covered.