VietNamNet Bridge - Mobile network operators, while admitting that they unsuccessfully developed 3G, say they have learned a lesson from this and will change their approach to 4G.


Ho Chi Dung, technology director of Viettel, the military telco that runs one of the three largest mobile network operators, said that while Viettel heavily invested in 3G, the business has been below expectations.

Viettel’s 3G subscribers account for 30 percent of its total mobile subscribers, a modest figure if noting that the average ratio is 45 percent in South East Asia. In Thailand, for example, 30 percent of 2G subscribers shifted to 3G just five months after 3G services were launched, equal to the figure Viettel obtained after five years.

Regarding 3G speed, which is ‘as slow as a snail’, he said the problem lies in the coverage environment in Hanoi. As there are too many small houses and narrow alleys, the coverage cannot be perfect, while it sometimes takes 4-5 years to ask for permission to set up new BTS (base transceiver stations).

However, he affirmed that telcos have been doing well, with more than 90 percent of samples showing speed of above 512 and 1 Mbps.

He believes that Viettel could not succeed with 3G because of the unreasonable approach to 3G, noting that Viettel had developed 3G like 2G and voice services.

However, though 3G has not brought the expected success, Viettel has recovered its investment capital, about four years after launching the services.

He said the telco will draw experience from 3G deployment when launching 4G, especially with data service. It will create a platform on which new apps can be created by anyone, including users.

Agreeing with Dung that mobile network operators ‘have not been really successful’ with 3G, Nguyen Dang Long, deputy CEO of VNPT-NET, said ‘3G is still running well’.

However, he noted that mobile network operators need to measure user satisfaction. The mobile network operator’s KPI (key performance indicator) could be good, but the users’ KPI was not.

VNPT said it had received 20,000 claims about coverage from customers.

VNPT’s 3G network covers 90 percent of Vietnamese territory, but it still has difficulties in infrastructure. Equipment cannot set up BTS. In general, mobile network operators all find it difficult to get licenses for BTS.

Viettel, MobiFone and VNPT have asked for permission to provide 4G services on a trial basis. Viettel’s deputy CEO Do Minh Phuong said that Viettel is gearing up to prepare for the service launch. It has signed contracts on equipment procurement and will install equipment soon.