iPhone, 3G equipment imports restricted

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The Ministry of Information and Communications has banned mass imports of expensive and unnecessary equipment for high-speed 3G mobile services, including the iPhone, as part of efforts to curb the national trade deficit.

Telecom companies have been asked to build 3G facilities based on their existing network and localized equipment as much as possible to cut imports.

The ministry has also asked the telecom firms to guide customers to buy only necessary and suitable products and avoid creating a trend of purchasing expensive goods.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade reported early this month that local companies imported equipment worth billions of dollars to develop high-speed 3G mobile phone services which were launched in the country late 2009.

Telecom giants Vinaphone and Viettel began selling the iPhone on March 26 and sales of the high-end handset were lower than expected.

Vietnam's trade deficit in the first three months reached $3.5 billion. Last year's deficit was recorded at $12.2 billion.

Telecom firms may have spent billions of dollars on equipment imports, but it was an investment in infrastructure, economist Nguyen Quang A wrote in an article published by Lao Dong Newspaper on April 11.

"Policy makers are making a point that it's unnecessary for a poor country to import luxury products," he said. "But it's a pity if telecom equipment for infrastructure is considered a luxury."

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