VNPT and Viettel were two out of five telecom firms issued licences by the ministry to test 4G technology last year, the others being CMC, FPT, and VTC. (Source: hanoimoi)

Hanoi (VNA) – Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group (VNPT) began commercial testing of its 4G, or fourth generation mobile telecom technology, services in HCM City and Phu Quoc Island, in early 2016 with speeds reaching as high as 100 Mbps.

Vinaphone's 3G subscribers could switch to 4G for free within a week and use 4G at the same price as 3G for services like mobile TV, mobile broadcast, and video conferencing.

Earlier the telecom group Viettel also got permission from the Ministry of Information and Communications to test its 4G services for seven months from last May in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau. Again it was found that 4G broadband was up to seven times faster than 3G.

It seems that a new race has begun among the biggest telecom players.

VNPT and Viettel were two out of five telecom firms issued licences by the ministry to test 4G technology last year, the others being CMC, FPT, and VTC.

To carry out their testing, both Viettel and VNPT built hundreds of 4G base transceiver stations.

VNPT has installed around 100 stations in HCM City and 50 in Phu Quoc.

It plans to expand its 4G services to Hanoi, Hai Phong, Nam Dinh, Da Nang, Can Tho, Ca Mau, and Bac Lieu immediately upon getting a licence to provide 4G services.

Viettel said it has funds ready to begin 4G services at several locations in the country. For the trial, it installed nearly 200 stations in the cities of Vung Tau and Ba Ria and the rural Long Dien district.

Thus, of the country's three biggest telecom firms, only Mobifone has yet to reveal its 4G plans.

But the company is unlikely to stand out the race. At a review meeting in the first half of last year, one of Mobifone's most important demands from the ministry was permission to provide 4G services in the 1800 mHz band starting in early 2016.

The company also revealed plans to provide several mobile value-added services in 4G.

The goals of the major mobile players in this new race seem to be quite different: While Viettel targets expanding its market share at home and abroad, Mobifone wants to improve its image, service quality and profits.

VNPT General Director Pham Duc Long said the company would introduce 4G services very quickly and apply the technology to various mobile services to provide customers with the best service quality.

Experts say 4G LTE [long term evolution] has been growing rapidly all over the world. With its advantages like high-speed internet access and the popularity of mobile phones and tablets, clearly 4G LTE will remain a key development trend in the telecom industry.

By the end of last year more than 300 telecom firms in over 100 countries were providing 4G services, 61 of them in Asia. In 2014 the world had around 450 million 4G subscribers, and the number is expected to have nearly doubled to 830 million by the end of last year.

The ministry had planned to launch 4G in the country last year, but delayed the issue of operational licences until this year for assessing the demand, technology, devices, and other conditions.

Analysts say it is right time for the country to deploy 4G since this technology has increased speed and security in mobile devices, brought in new business models and improved access to education and health.

In addition, local network operators now have the advantage of infrastructure provided by State-run companies.

But others say that the MoIT and service providers should make a careful study before introducing 4G services since 4G devices remain rather costly in Vietnam at 4-20 million VND.

Besides demand, the two other decisive factors in the deployment of 4G are technology and ecosystem, they say, whereas the country's infrastructure is not really ready yet.

They recommended that service providers should not be hasty and wait for consumers to use devices that are appropriate for 4G technology.-VNA