Vietnamese telcos begin testing 5G services in earnest

By Dat Nguyen   December 6, 2020 | 02:15 am PT
Vietnamese telcos begin testing 5G services in earnest
A person holds a smartphone displaying 5G speed test in Hanoi on November 30, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Luu Quy.
Vietnam’s three major telecom companies are racing to test 5G services to achieve the government’s goal of making the country one of the earliest to adopt the technology.

State-owned Vinaphone last week became the first to conduct 5G commercial tests in both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

In Hanoi, VnExpress reporters using 5G devices were able to reach download speeds of 721 megabit per second (Mbps), or 10 times higher than 4G speeds. In HCMC, it reached 1,000 Mbps, with downloading a 1.16 gigabyte (GB) app taking around 34 seconds.

Vinaphone also unveiled its 5G routers developed in partnership with Finland’s Nokia.

The device collects 5G waves and broadcasts it as wifi signals, enabling Internet use in households without the need for fiber-optic cables.

Military-run Viettel commercially tested its 5G broadcast in Hanoi on November 30, achieving 10 times the download speeds of 4G when the user is in one place and five times when travelling in a vehicle.

Viettel has put up 100 base stations in the city’s three downtown districts, and users with 5G devices can start experiencing the technology without the need to change their sim cards.

Of the 100 stations, it produced 15 in-house and bought the rest from Sweden’s Ericsson.

The company plans to expand to Da Nang and HCMC soon.

Le Dang Dung, the chairman of the company, said when 5G transmission is stable it could help doctors perform surgeries through the Internet and factories could be completely automated.

Another state-owned telecom firm, MobiFone, began commercially testing 5G services in HCMC on November 27, achieving average speeds of 600-800 Mbps, going up to 1,500 Mbps.

The company plans to install 50 stations in the city this month.

But it will take time for smartphone makers and networks to perfect 5G operations.

Some Huawei, Xiaomi, Asus, Nokia, and Oppo devices can use 5G, but Samsung devices have to wait until the end of the year at least, and it is unclear when iPhone devices will be able to connect in Vietnam.

The subscription rate is a concern among users. Currently operators are providing free data to promote the new technology, but it is unclear what the tariffs will be.

During the commercial test period, the Ministry of Information and Communications has limited the rates to the same level as for 4G, but operators can later change them.

Pham Ngoc Tu, head of Vinaphone’s services research and development department, said it is still too early to determine 5G rates, and the company needs to establish around 50,000 stations to calculate prices.

Communications minister Nguyen Manh Hung said in 2018 that Vietnam would be one of the first countries in the world to launch 5G services.

It was seven or eight years behind in adopting 3G and 4G technologies, but not with 5G, he promised last month, adding that it would be widely available in the country from next year.

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