The number of 3G subscribers in Vietnam has shot up thanks to cheaper mobile internet services and smartphones and the rising popularity of tablets.

Figures from the Telecommunications Department show that between October 2009, when 3G services were introduced, and July last year only 8 million signed up for them. But between then and last April a further 4.8 million came on board.

The lower fees and major promotion campaigns are thought to be the most important reasons for this.

A recent survey by Nielsen and Qualcomm found that 52 percent of people in Hanoi , HCM City , and Da Nang use 3G services through USBs and 48 percent through mobile phones.

At the end of last year Viettel introduced the unlimited MiMax package for just 40,000 VND per month, forcing rivals MobiFone and VinaPhone to match the offer.

In April Viettel offered students the package at 20,000 VND per month.

On some other packages, it cut fees by 50 percent, bringing them down to 50 percent of 2G costs. Subsequently, the number of subscribers soared by 17 – 66 percent.

"One reason that 3G cannot explode in Vietnam is because customers believe it is very expensive," Tin Tuc (News) newspaper quoted Hoang Son, director of Viettel Telecom, as saying.

"However, 3G prices are now lower than that of 2G."

According to the Electronic Trade and Information Technologies Department, by 2015, 20 percent of the population will be using 3G, up from the current 15 percent.

"3G subscriptions will increase rapidly thanks to promotions by network providers and cheaper smart phones, which are now sold from 80 USD," Dinh Anh Huan, marketing director of mobile-phone retailer The Gioi Di Dong, said.-VNA

The increasing popularity of tablets is another factor.

In 2011 the Vietnam tablet market grew by 44 percent, and this year the figure would be 51 percent, a survey by the International Data Company found.