More than 348,000 out of the total 500,000 businesses operating in Vietnam now use digital signature services and declare their taxes online, the English language news portal VietNamNet Bridge said.

Nine digital signature service providers have been licensed since September 2009, when the Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) began the service.

The nine providers include VDC, Bkav, FPT, Viettel, CKCA, CA2, SafeCA, SmartSign and NewTel. Of these, FPT, the largest private-run technology group, and VDC, a subsidiary of the state-owned Vietnam Post and Telecommunication Group (VNPT), scramble for the first and second positions in the market. Each of them reportedly has 80,000 customers.

According to Nguyen Hong Hai, Deputy Director of VDC, many of these that do their taxes online are mostly located in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and big cities and provinces.

“The coverage of digital signature on Vietnamese enterprises is relatively large. This means the remaining part of the market for service providers to exploit is small,” said Tran The Hien, CEO of FSE FPT.

“We can only seek new customers among the businesses that still have not used the services, and newly established businesses,” he added.

Ngo Tuan Anh, Vice Chair of BKAV, a well known internet security solution provider, also thinks there are more digital signature service providers than needed.

“There are nine service providers to serve 500,000 businesses which need the service to make tax and customs declarations. The supply has exceeded the demand,” he said.

MIC, which has realized the oversupply, has recently refused to grant operation license to businesses.

Observers said Vietnamese businesses mostly use digital signature services to make online tax and customs declarations, and to do e-banking and stock transactions.

FPT, VDC and Bkav also provide digital certificate services to SSL websites to protect important data transmitted via internet, local networks and outer networks, or for servers to automatically sign e-transactions.

They also provide services to protect manufacturers’ software and users against risks and malware when downloading.

Anh from Bkav said the company is planning to provide services to clients to serve their declarations of social insurance and e-invoices, once insurance and taxation agencies accept e-declarations and e-invoices.

Diversifying services is the only choice for service providers to improve their revenue as there are now a limited number of customers.

Hai of VDC also puts high hopes on the development of online public administration services, saying that this would create a promising area for digital signature firms to exploit.