Customers shop for mobile phones, tablets and accessories at a Viettel store on Ha Noi's Ngoc Khanh Street. Photo: VNA
Three major mobile service providers will run technical tests in December, six months later than planned, for operating switching networks without consumers needing to change phone numbers.

The service is expected to be officially put into operation at the beginning of 2017.

The Ministry of Information and Communications has worked with network providers to finalise plans for the service.

At the conference, representatives from Viettel, VNPT and Mobifone said that they could follow the proposed roadmap and were preparing the basic technical requirements.

However, small providers were seemingly hesitant to put this service in place. Gtel was reportedly absent from the conference.

Hanoi Telecom, which operates the Vietnamobile network, sought to delay the testing until December 2017 because the company is undergoing restructuring.

Still, Deputy Minister Pham Hong Hai repeated that there will be no more delays in testing the service. He stressed that providing this service is essential to meet demand and ensure the rights of consumers, while also promoting competition and the quality of service among providers.

"This kind of service has been provided for years in many countries and it is time in Vietnam ," Hai said, demanding service providers be committed to carrying out the plans.

Hai added that Vietnam will not encounter large technical problems, as it will learn from other international providers.

It is estimated that with the participation of three major network providers, the service will be available to more than 90 percent of all mobile subscribers.

Regarding concerns that subscribers will change network providers regularly to enjoy promotions, Hai said the ministry will propose regulations about the timing of switching networks and possibly add switching fees to prevent this.

He said, for instance, that subscribers will be allowed to change networks only 90 days after they have previously switched carriers.

Throughout the world, statistics showed that, on average, one to five percent of subscribers change networks.

Hai said the ministry will propose appropriate regulations to ensure the rights of both providers and subscribers and prevent switching en mass when there are promotional programmes.

Network providers at the conference urged the early issuance of instructions about technical standards and system capacity, as well as a legal framework for network providers to make preparations for the changes.-VNA