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Vietnamese telecoms speed up 4G race

Tuesday, March 21, 2017, 20:02 GMT+7

While Vietnam’s three largest mobile carriers prepare to release 4G networks to the public, many mobile users are unsure if it is worth upgrading their data plans from the already expensive 3G.

Vietnamese mobile network operators are intensifying their preparations to offer as widely as possible coverage of the fourth generation of the wireless mobile communication network in the country.

Military-run Viettel, for instance, said that it had installed nearly 18,000 4G stations in nearly all districts across the country as of mid-March.

The company claimed that its 4G network would be available even in remote communes, border areas and islands, adding that the number of 4G stations will rise to 28,000 countrywide by the end of this month.

In the meantime, VNPT, the operator of Vinaphone, is also speeding up the pace of its infrastructure development.

The mobile carrier is testing the network in certain cities and provinces, and is set to offer the 4G service in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and ten other provinces by the end of April.

“By the end of 2017, Vinaphone will have had countrywide 4G coverage,” one company representative said.

The latest player, MobiFone, has plans to offer 4G in 53 out of 63 provinces and cities by the second quarter of this year.

It appears that the three mobile carriers will all launch the service no later than the first week of April.

People try out 4G services at an event in Ho Chi Minh City.

4G is the fourth generation of wireless mobile telecommunications technology, succeeding 3G.

Theoretically, the peak speed for 4G can range between 1 Gbps and 1.5 Gbps (gigabit per second), however the 4G network in Vietnam is of Long-Term Evolution (LTE) standard, with a top speed of only 200-250 Mbps (megabit per second).

In reality, the service speed fluctuates between 20 and 30 Mbps, and in some specific areas, 30 and 60 Mbps.

These are still much faster than current 3G service speeds, from 3 to 5 Mbps.

Mobile carriers all claim that users will enjoy a better online experience by using the 4G network, though some are concerned that faster speeds will result in their data plans expiring sooner.

The most common 3G prepaid data plan in Vietnam is VND70,000 (US$3.13) a month for 600MB of high-speed data. Once the 600MB quota is used up, users do not have to pay more, but their data speed will be far slower.

Some Vietnamese users believe that with 4G, it will take merely minutes for their 600GB data plan to drain, leading to them paying more.

Vinaphone has reassured users that “on the same amount of data, 4G does not cost more than 3G,” while Viettel has also claimed that the cost per GB on the 4G data plan will be “cheaper” than 3G.

MobiFone said that a data plan is cheap or expensive depending on what users do online

“Your data plan will only drain faster if you use the 4G for services like watching HD movies online,” one company representative said.

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