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Vietnam’s mobile data speed in for big boost with new 4G frequency band

Engineers install a base transceiver station in Vietnam.
Engineers install a base transceiver station in Vietnam.

Mobile data speed in Vietnam is expected to greatly improve as the communications ministry has announced it may start allowing mobile network operators to use a separate radio frequency band for their 4G services, instead of the same frequency band as 2G, from November.

Two years have passed since the first 4G service was launched in Vietnam in October 2016, and today around 30 million mobile users in Vietnam are subscribed to 4G data plans.

The amount of transmitted cellular data in the Southeast Asian country has doubled since then, according to local operators.

4G is the fourth generation of broadband cellular network technology that packs greater connection speed than its predecessor, 3G.

However, despite the fact that four out of five mobile providers in Vietnam are already offering 4G, they still have to use the same radio frequency band of 1,800 MHz for both their 4G and 2G services.

“The current frequency band does not have enough bandwidth for a quality 4G service,” said Hoang Son, deputy general director of military-run telecoms group Viettel, which boasts half of Vietnam’s 4G subscribers.

Vietnam ranks 46th out of 88 surveyed countries in terms of 4G speed, averaging 21.49Mbps, according to the 2018 State of LTE Report by OpenSignal.

Due to such limited bandwidth, Vietnamese mobile carriers say they have to install more base transceiver stations (BTS), which facilitate wireless communication between devices and a network, to improve users’ connectivity.

This is both inefficient and expensive, according to a former leader of Vietnam’s Authority of Radio Frequency Management.

To erase this bottleneck and unleash the full potential of 4G technology, the Ministry of Information and Communications has plans to grant companies permission to use the new 2,600 MHz frequency band for their 4G services via a bidding process from as soon as November.

Only one permit will be granted per bidder, and all telecom companies are eligible to bid for access to this new frequency band, including those that don’t operate mobile networks, the ministry said.

“This will be the ministry’s top priority for the remaining months of 2018,” said Nguyen Manh Hung, acting Minister of Information and Communications.

The move will also swing the door open for trial of 5G technology in Vietnam in the near future, he added.