Vietnam telecoms set to pilot commercial 5G network

By Harry Menear
Successful pilot schemes in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City will mean Vietnam can go mainstream with 5G and close 2G by 2022...

Vietnam's leading telecom companies are now licensed to run commercial 5G tests in the country's two biggest cities. The military-owned Viettel, Vietnam's leading, state-run communications company, is leading the charge in Hanoi with 140 base transceiver stations. 

Meanwhile, state-owned MobiFone is commercially piloting the tech in Ho Chi Min City, with 50 stations. The telecom has already announced it is fully prepared to implement a 5G mobile network, stating that 5G has potential for business, transport, healthcare, entertainment and education sectors.

To date, MobiFone has successfully trialled 5G in four Vietnamese cities of Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Da Nang and Hai Phong. According to a MobiFone spokesman, the company has also recorded download speeds of 2Gbps.

The news comes following reports that the country will close its 2G networks by 2022 to increase capacity for the growing 5G expansion project. 

It is hoped that Vietnam’s commercial pilot tests will provide essential data on their tech and market size. The information will then be used to implement the commercial 5G operation. The pilot scheme will also enable Viettel and MobiFone to evaluate their privacy regulations and cybersecurity protocols before the service goes mainstream. 

Safe networks

In terms of security, Viettel made world news in August 2019 following its official condemnation of Huawei in the race towards 5G. Vietnam is the first Asian country to build such a network without equipment or assistance from the Chinese tech giant.

Instead, Viettel is using hardware supplied by Ericsson and Nokia, along with 5G chipsets from Qualcomm Inc. The carrier is also developing its own equipment. Director-General of Viettel, Major General Le Dang Dung, said at the time. “We are not going to work with Huawei right now. It’s a bit sensitive. There were reports that it’s not safe to use Huawei. So Viettel’s stance is that, given all this information, we should just go with the safer ones. So, we choose Nokia and Ericsson from Europe.”

Journey to 5G

Vietnam conducted their first 5G call in January via tech created by Viettel. The company has been installing network hardware since 2019, with predictions suggesting the 5G subscription uptake will surpass 6.3m by 2025. Reports suggest the network will have a delivery speed that is 100 times faster than its current 4G system. Viettel has already announced plans for 5G capability to support remote medical procedures and autonomous driving. 

However, both Mobifone and Viettel will have to apply for permission from the Ministry of Information Technology and Communications to increase the size of the test scheme once their current licenses expire in June of 2021. The telecoms will also be expected to have compliancy on the management of telecom quality and security. 

Business opportunities

Though it will be some months before 5G is fully commercialised in Vietnam, companies are already enthusiastic. Research and manufacturer joint stock company start-up, VinSmart, a subsidiary of the Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup JSC, has already secured a contract to export up to two million 5G mobiles to the USA. 

VinSmart’s vice chairwoman Le Thi Thu Thuy, said, “Once the 5G network reaches a wide coverage in Vietnam, we would already have the capacity to well serve the local market. 5G is an opportunity for a new player like VinSmart to be on par with the world’s manufacturers.”

Major General Le Dang Dung said successful results from the 5G connection tests will result in a large-scale 5G roll-out for both Ho Chi Min City and Hanoi before the official launch at the end of 2020.

He added that Vietnam's fast adoption of 5G might also make it one of the first countries in the world to implement the tech for commercial use.


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