Malaysian telecom infrastructure provider mulls Vietnam entry

By Hung Le   September 28, 2019 | 07:31 pm PT
edotco Group, the infrastructure unit of Malaysian telecom conglomerate Axiata Group, is looking to expand its telecom towers network into Vietnam and Thailand.

Although the company is "actively looking at Thailand and Vietnam", it is currently more interested in consolidating its core markets, edotco CEO Suresh Sidhu told Nikkei Markets Friday.

edotco Group operates and manages 29,900 towers across its core markets of Malaysia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. These accounted for 7.6 percent and 8 percent of Axiata group’s revenue and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization in 2018.

edotco did not elaborate on its plans for Vietnam, but it had earlier revealed in June to Mobile World Live that the Asia Pacific region holds plenty of growth potential for the company, and that Vietnam was a key target in its expansion plans.

Sidhu had noted then that Vietnam’s state-owned telecom giant Viettel has bold plans for deploying 5G technology and is also seeking a slice of the broader mobile ecosystem with the launch of a taxi and delivery-booking app, along with the launch of an e-commerce site.

Vietnam’s telecom market is becoming more attractive to foreign investors as it has returned to the growth path in the first half of 2019 after a long period of stagnation, according to a Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) press release in August.

The government considers it a key driver for the country’s digital economy and will step up divestment from state-owned telco corporations, MIC said.

Foreign investors will have room to grow in the domestic market. The number of households with internet access at home is only 27 per 100 households and only 9.3 percent of Vietnamese households have a fixed-line telephone, while the number of 3G and 4G mobile subscribers is still below the world average, said Sesto Vecchi, managing partner of law firm Russin & Vecchi. 

Data demand is on the rise in Vietnam and will keep increasing in the near future, with the number of 4G subscribers expected to rise over nine-fold from 2019 to 2024, according to MIC.

Vietnam also targets to provide nationwide coverage of 5G, the latest generation of mobile Internet connectivity, by 2020, Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung said last November.

Viettel launched its first 5G station in Hanoi early this year and made the first 5G phone call in May.

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