Vietnamese network providers ready for 5G rollout

By Dat Nguyen   December 4, 2018 | 07:59 pm PT
Vietnamese network providers ready for 5G rollout
A 5G sign is seen at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain February 28, 2018. Photo by Reuters
Vietnamese telecom firms are seeking a head start in the 5G race as the country becomes an early adopter of the technology.

State-owned Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group (VNPT) recently signed a deal with Finnish telecom firm Nokia to develop 5G solutions and technology for the Internet of Things. The three-year deal is worth $15 million.

The country’s third largest mobile service provider is seeking permission from the Ministry of Information and Communications for its Vinaphone network to beta test 5G, chairman Tran Manh Hung said at a conference last month.

He said the test would help VNPT master the technology and prepare to produce 5G equipment, adding Vinaphone is ready to provide 5G services as soon as it gets the ministry green light.

Military-run Viettel Group has also announced it is ready to beta test 5G next year. Its deputy director, Tao Duc Thang, said its installation of infrastructure for 4G even in remote areas allows Viettel to be ready for the new network.

5G is said to offer speeds 100 times faster than 4G, primarily used for smartphones and other similar devices. The former is also expected to support new applications like remote medical procedures and autonomous driving.

Thang said Viettel, the country’s largest mobile service provider, is working with partners to manufacture 5G equipment. 

"I think Vietnamese operators are ready for 5G with the existing infrastructure. When the market, equipment and users are ready, developing 5G will be possible."

The company, which has been working on 5G plans since 2015, will start installing infrastructure early next year and introduce the service first in big cities like Hanoi and HCMC.

The country’s second biggest mobile service provider, MobiFone, which trailed its competitors in deploying 4G, earlier this year signed an agreement with Samsung Electronics for engineering and commercial cooperation on 4G and 5G networks. 

Vietnamobile, a joint venture between Hanoi Telecom and Hongkong-based Hutchison Asia Telecommunications, has also announced its interest in offering 5G services.

VNPT, Viettel, MobiFone, and Vietnamobile are expected to receive 5G testing licenses in January.

Last month Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung said at a conference that Vietnam should test 5G next year and ensure nationwide coverage by 2020.

"Vietnam should be one of the first to launch the network, at least in Hanoi and HCMC." The country had been one of the last in Southeast Asia to roll out 4G.

This time Vietnam would be able to produce the required equipment before it launches the network, whereas for 4G the country had to wait for eight years before being able to do so, and for 2G and 3G all the equipment had to be imported, he said.

"5G is not only an opportunity for connection services and going up the telecommunications ladder, but also an opportunity for developing the country’s information and communications technology industry."

The International Telecommunication Union last year ranked Vietnam 115th out of 193 economies in terms of mobile teledensity, but Hung wants the country to have 100 percent subscription by 2020 and be among top 30-50 countries in the world in data spending per capita.

Vietnam's telecom market was estimated at more than $16 billion in 2016, with the three state-owned providers, Viettel, MobiFone, and VNPT, accounting for 95 percent of the market, according to the Nikkei Asian Review.

Viettel had the largest share with 46.7 percent, followed by MobiFone with 26.1 percent and VNPT with 22.2 percent.

While MobiFone and VNPT are on the list of state-owned companies slated for privatization by 2020, Viettel will remain in government hands.

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