After signing up with the three major Internet carriers, Duc Tien is exasperated and dismayed that his Wi-Fi is still moving at a snail’s pace.
Tien, supervisor of a computer shop in Hanoi’s Cau Giay District, said: “There was a time when downloading a file of several hundred megabytes would take only a few seconds. And here I am counting my blessings that the download is successful at all.”
A reliable Internet connection is crucial to the success of any computer store, he said.
Tien had signed up for Internet packages with three different providers and even installed Internet boosters to ensure maximum connection speed even if one of the carriers experienced an outage.
A person measures Internet speeds on a PC and a mobile phone in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Luu Quy
However, four of the five undersea cables connecting Vietnam to the world were broken early this week. The fact that Vietnam currently only has one fully functional undersea cable has caused internet speeds between Vietnam and the rest of the world to slow to a crawl.
When Tien tried to download some software from a foreign website on January 30, he was shocked to see that the download speed was less than 1 Mbps, hundreds of times slower than before.
This made both the shop and customers antsy, he said.
Software installations that would normally take just a few minutes were now suddenly taking significantly longer due to the slow network.
Even the most basic Internet browsing activities aren’t as smooth as they used to be.
Tien frequently plays 4K YouTube videos for customers to check the screen quality of a device. But now, all the videos he tries to play are downscaled to the lowest quality.
On e-commerce sites, the high-definition images that customers use to check the quality of the products they are considering purchasing have become blurry.
Nhat Anh, head of a digital startup company in Hanoi’s Thanh Xuan District, becomes stressed out by user and operational issues whenever his company’s Internet goes down.
“The unstable Internet connection have slowed down the workflow of my employees,” he lamented. “Customers who can’t access the service also assume our services have problems.”
On Jan. 30, VnExpress polled more than 5,500 users and found that 93% of respondents had slower Internet speeds, while 5% experienced no change and 2% experienced faster speeds.
Several Internet service providers say that this is a more serious Internet connection problem than the ones they’ve faced before.
Huynh Anh from HCMC said he usually switched to using 4G whenever the Internet at home went down. This method is “useless” at the present time, he complained.
“Due to the nature of my job, I have to go on social media sites for professional purposes every day,” he said. “However, even a single image takes an extremely long time to load. Connection speeds on both Wi-Fi and 4G are poor.”
Images can’t be shown when the Facebook app is used on a phone with an LTE connection in Hanoi, January 31, 2023. Photo by VnExopress/Luu Quy
What’s slowing the Internet connection?
Vietnam’s internet speeds have been unstable for months, following the connection issues of undersea cables AAG, APG, and AAE at the end of 2022, with the connection via AAG and APG completely down.
In addition, Intra Asia (IA) cable encountered problems on January 28.
The latest breakage means that only one undersea cable connecting Vietnam globally, the SMW3, remains fully functional.
A representative of Internet provider Viettel said that this is the first time there has been a problem on all four main undersea cables connecting Vietnam to the rest of the world at the same time. The carrier has implemented all the most optimal solutions to handle this.
A representative of VNPT said the fact that the four cables were simultaneously encountering issues meant that international internet connections across Vietnam would be more or less affected, especially during busy user hours, and for those whose online activities require high internet bandwidths (online gaming, video streaming, etc.).
Service providers said they were working with units managing the undersea cables to resolve the issues, as well as deploying other measures to optimize data transference. But a lot of people say that their Internet connection still hasn’t gotten any faster.
This unusual problem with Internet transmission occurred while Vietnam was working to advance its communications infrastructure.
As stated in its 2022 annual report, the Ministry of Information and Communications aimed to have 76% of the population online by 2023.
One of the goals for the telecommunications sector between now and 2024–2025 is to increase regional and international Internet connections, with the goal of making Vietnam a regional connecting hub.
However, the international connections that connect Vietnam to the rest of the globe are deemed to be inadequate.
Vietnam is currently connected with seven undersea cables: SMW3, AAG, IA, APG, AAE-1, SJC2 and ADC.
The fastest data from December 2022 shows that Vietnam’s fixed broadband Internet speed hit 82 Mbps, placing the country in the 46th position globally, while the mobile Internet speed reached 42 Mbps, placing it in the 51st position globally.
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