Vietnamobile steadfast in 3G strategy

May 13, 2017 | 08:20
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While other mobile network operators are busy launching 4G services, the fourth biggest operator Vietnamobile is still striving to stabilise its 3G.
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On May 10, following the announcement of countrywide 3G network coverage by the second quarter of 2017 and multiplying its 3G speed in Danang, Vietnamobile unveiled a new 3G data plan “with attractive price” that comes with more data and offers users free internet connection at night time.

For just VND40,000 ($1.76) a month, Vietnamobile customers can have 2GB of mobile data for 30 days with the M0 3G package. Subscribers to this data plan can enjoy high-speed internet to watch online movies, surf the web, listen to music, play games, and so on, with peace of mind.

Between 1 AM and 7 AM every day, users will have access to free internet connection without spending their remaining data plan. On top of this, there is also a safety solution for budget customers who may go beyond their plan’s limit: they are free to go 0.5GB in excess until the plan expires.

On top of the M0 package, Vietnamobile is also offering four new monthly data plans with prices from VND70,000 ($3.1)/4GB to VND200,000 ($8.81)/20GB and the daily plan D12, which costs VND12,000 (53 US cent)/300 MB.

While other network providers are in the final phase of the 4G race, Vietnamobile spectacularly missed the trend. At a press conference in early April, Elizabete Fong, CEO of Vietnamobile, explained that within the next two years, the Vietnamese market will still mainly use 3G.

She said that 4G is a modern technology that people wish to use. However, smartphones that support 4G are not widely available in Vietnam. In urban areas, the percentage of smartphones with 4G functions is higher than in rural areas, but the overall rate is 4-5 per cent only.

“People in urban areas have started to be interested in 4G, but in rural areas, most smartphones support 3G only, thus, 3G is more popular,” Fong said. Moreover, she said that in the future, when the devices supporting 4G become more popular in Vietnam, Vietnamobile will be on time to launch these services.

She said the Vietnamese market still has many chances for 3G network development, especially in the rural areas, which Vietnamobile identified as a market holding significant potential.

Fong said that Vietnamobile is installing the 3G network infrastructure all over the country. In 2016, the company received $450 million from partner Hutchison Telecommunications, most of which was spent on network infrastructure. With this investment, Vietnamobile will expand its 3G coverage to 90 per cent of the Vietnamese population by the end of 2017.

At present, Vietnamobile does not have a 4G licence. Viettel, Vinaphone, MobiFone, and Gtel have all been licensed to launch 4G on the 1800 MHz bandwidth and, with the exception of Gtel, have launched 4G services.

Meanwhile, the 2100 MHz bandwidth that Vietnamobile operates on is not planned by the government to carry 4G. Fong said she hoped that the Ministry of Information and Communications would soon allow operators to use any technology they wish on the bandwidth they are licensed to operate on, then Vietnamobile could launch 4G without having to apply for additional permits.

Vietnamobile was also the last operator to be licensed to provide 3G. It reported a successful pilot programme in 2011, while all other operators had received their licenses by the end of 2009 and started providing 3G by the end of 2010.

By By Hong Trang

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