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Viettel to scrap mobile roaming charges

Released at: 10:00, 16/12/2016

Viettel to scrap mobile roaming charges

Photo: Duc Anh

Charges to be removed for users of Viettel networks in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos from January 1.

by Do Huong

Viettel, Vietnam’s leading telecoms provider, will scrap mobile roaming charges on subscribers using the Viettel (Vietnam), Metfone (Cambodia), and Unitel (Laos) networks from January 1, with customers subject to local fees.

The Vietnamese Government and leaders from Cambodia and Laos agreed to remove mobile roaming charges in order to facilitate trade, economic and cultural ties between the three countries on the occasion of the 9th Summit of the Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam Development Triangle Area (CLV 9), held in Cambodia.

Mr. Nguyen Manh Hung, Viettel’s CEO, announced that Viettel’s move is the first in the world. “No country in the world has removed mobile roaming charges,” he said. “EU countries have discussed the issue but gone no further. Many countries in the EU have applied international roaming charges of up to $2 per minute, as the cost is more 500 times as expensive as in Vietnam.” With the abolition of roaming charges the military-run group will lose $1 million each month but its customers stand to benefit.

In 2013 the EU planned to launch a number of policies to reduce regional roaming charges to local levels. Removing roaming fees would see revenue among telecom providers fall by two per cent, estimates show.

The EU has been tightening management policies for many years to avoid the situation where holidaymakers return home to astronomical phone bills. EU leaders say that mobile operators will benefit from such a policy in the long term because users would spend much more time surfing the internet on their phones while abroad.

European leaders have recently voted through new laws that will scrap mobile roaming charges from June 2017. Roaming charges will require reform of the roaming wholesale market, on which local mobile operators across Europe trade services between each other.

Ms. Nicole McCormick, Senior Analyst at technology research and advisory company Ovum, said that, in theory, the abolition of roaming charges in the ASEAN region is good but it will take many years for it to become reality internationally. Australia and New Zealand have spent many years discussing the issue but are yet to act.

A proposal to abolish roaming charges has been discussed by ministers of information technology and communications (ICT) in the ASEAN region since 2013. Indonesia’s Minister of ICT, Tifatul Sembiring, said that the proposal will bring benefits to ASEAN citizens thanks to cheaper connection costs. In 2012 he said he expected the proposal may come to life within two years.

The military-run Viettel is currently leading the list among local telecommunications companies with high revenue during the first eleven months of 2016, according to the latest remarks from the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC). It earned VND19.3 trillion ($865.5 million) in revenue in November, equal to 109 per cent of its annual plan, while profit was VND3.4 billion ($152,466).

It has been followed by the Vietnam Post and Telecommunications Group (VNPT), MobiFone, VTC, and the Vietnam Post Corporation (VietnamPost).

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