Vietnam telco eyes 3G price hike, ministry says firm has carte blanche

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Telecom giant Viettel seeks to hike tariffs for 3G services saying that would enable it to improve services for the rapidly rising number of subscribers.

Tong Viet Trung, deputy director of the military-run Viettel, told Saigon Times newspaper that his company's network is under pressure since the number of users of high-speed 3G phone services has skyrocketed.

Viettel is considering hiking rates except for basic packages offering lower speeds.

Trung said current 3G charges are actually below market prices and very cheap considering the cost of setting up networks.

If telcos do not hike tariffs, their financial capacity to expand and upgrade in the long-term would be hit, he warned.

The company has petitioned the Ministry of Information and Communications, and it is up to the latter to decide when the fees could be hiked, he said.

But vice minister Le Nam Thang said Viettel's move seems more like a notice than a proposal since the Telecommunications Law allows telcos to decide prices themselves.

MobiFone and VinaPhone, the country's two other leading mobile players, last April hiked their 3G fees by 25 percent to VND50,000 per month, the same as Viettel's.

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The three telcos together hold most of the market share.

Bui Quoc Viet, a spokesman for VNPT, which owns both Mobifone and Vinaphone, said the price hike was for upgrading 3G packages to meet the rising demand in terms of both numbers and quality.

From 16 million users in mid-2012, the number rose to 20 million by year end.

Early packages were like a "tight shirt," prompting providers to launch new packages with larger data-transfer capacity, Viet said.

He said the hike of around VND10,000 a month by the two telcos was not too much, adding there should be greater focus on the quality of services.

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