Vietnamese vexed by Viettel’s plan to charge iMessage activation fees

Subscribers react after having long enjoyed the service for free

Apple's illustration photo of how iMessage works

Viettel subscribers have expressed their anger over the Vietnamese military-run mobile carrier’s plan to charge users for activating iMessage and FaceTime on their Apple devices.

iMessage and FaceTime are both services allowing iPhone, iPad and Macbook users to make phone calls and send text messages via the Internet free of charge. Users only need a 3G, 4G or WiFi connection to be able to use these iOS apps.

However, on October 6, Viettel notified its subscribers via an SMS that an activation fee of VND2,500 would take effect from October 15.

Upon receiving the notification, many local subscribers took it to mean that Viettel would now charge them VND2,500 for every iMessage or FaceTime call, thus resulting in outrage, despite the carrier stating clearly in its announcement that only an “activation fee” would be charged.

A warning message for users when activating iMessage
A warning message for users when activating iMessage

This means that whenever the FaceTime or iMessage apps are toggled ‘on’ in settings, the network carrier must send an international SMS to Apple’s server in the UK to activate them.

So far, Viettel has been covering this activation fee for its subscribers, but on October 15 the mobile carrier will start charging VND2,500 for each activation message only.

The mobile carrier said the activation fee is applied only in a couple of cases, including when a subscriber uses iMessage or FaceTime with a new SIM card for the first time, or when they use either service after resetting their device.

Users will not have to pay the fees whenever they turn their device on or off, or switch to Airplane Mode, according to Viettel.

Viettel did note that iMessage and FaceTime are activated individually, meaning users must pay VND5,000 to have make both available for use.

The carrier added that it had made the policy shift transparent by notifying subscribers ten days in advance of the new rule.

The charges are also in line with industry standards according to Viettel, as similar services also require activation fees including miMessage on China’s Xiaomi devices.


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