State support could boost 5G deployment in Vietnam: report

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MAY 15, 2020 - 1:12 PM

VIETNAM could see the earliest 5G services commercialised by mid-2020, thanks to strong support from the government in helping to boost network deployments, even though the pandemic could delay launches, a report by Fitch Solutions said.

This follows trials that have been conducted through 2019.

The impact is likely to be greatest in the enterprise segment, Fitch said, particularly in Vietnam’s rapidly growing manufacturing sector, with government initiatives supporting industry uptake.

“Adoption of 5G-enabled sensors across the production line is a certainty, although this will centre most largely on the use of private networks in the short run, such as those developed by private players like Sigfox,” Fitch said in the report.

“Operators have made no indication of their 5G plans for the enterprise and industrial sectors, although we expect them to look at developing 5G networks in key economic zones and industrial areas.”

At the consumer level, early launches could centre on larger, high-income cities, with operators likely to focus on both mobile and fixed-wireless services.

“While fibre-based broadband connections in Vietnam have grown significantly in recent quarters, we believe that fixed-wireless 5G can still serve as a complement to existing fixed services and support the development and adoption of higher bandwidth services, such as virtual reality video streaming and cloud gaming applications,” Fitch said.

Even so, the Covid-19 pandemic could delay 5G launches, since it has forced operators to increase investments into their existing 4G networks and raise bandwidth on existing fixed broadband connections.

While these short term moves could put investments into 5G networks on the backburner, Fitch believes the Vietnamese government could pressure the state-owned operators to focus on 5G deployment.

The report noted that licenses and spectrum have yet to be allocated, but Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) could convert 5G trial licences, allocated in 2019, into commercial licences.

Viettel was the first operator to receive 5G trial spectrum in January 2019, followed by VNPT-Vinaphone and Mobifone in April 2019. The country’s smallest operator Vietnamobile has not made any indication on whether it has received 5G trial licences, and Fitch believes it is unlikely to follow the three state-owned operators in commercialising services in the short term.

Fitch believes it is unlikely that Viettel would be able to develop its own in-house equipment given the significant research and development costs needed, even though the operator said late last year it would not use Huawei equipment in its 5G networks.

“It is more likely that the operator has developed certain parts of the software, such as the ‘core’ needed to operate the networking equipment, or has reached an agreement to rebrand and resell equipment made by other vendors as its own,” Fitch said.

Regardless, Fitch said the Vietnamese government appears keen to support domestic technological development and has set targets to do so.

The MIC is already looking at licensing certain frequencies to domestic manufacturers of 5G products, and has stated that it will support the development of 5G-capable chips, although further details have not been disclosed, Fitch noted. Viettel has 5G partnerships with Ericsson and Nokia, while Mobifone has an agreement with Samsung. VNPT-Vinaphone is working with Nokia.