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|Vietnamese mobile service operators are racing to reduce the charges for roaming services after the Ministry of Information and Communications allowed mobile operators to negotiate with foreign partners about international roaming services since June 1.|
Military-run telecom group Viettel announced that all its pre-paid and post-paid subscribers would be offered preferential international data roaming service rates when travelling to Japan, South Korea and Australia up to September 15.
Especially, when using the data roaming services of South Korean SKT and KTF, Japanese Softbank and NTT Domoco and Australian Telstra, Viettel customers would only have to pay 22 đồng/10 KB.
Compared to the current data fees at VNĐ2,363 đồng/10KB (for pre-paid subscription), the new rates have been decreased by up to 99 per cent.
Previously, with the advantages of owning mobile networks in three countries in Indochina that include Viettel (Việt Nam), Metfone (Cambodia) and Unitel (Laos), the operator no longer collected roaming fees from subscribers in the three countries.
With a larger coverage than Viettel’s, VinaPhone has also announced data roaming fee reduction by 20 per cent to 80 per cent, which is applicable in countries having VinaPhone partners.
According to the new rates, VinaPhone will only have a rate of VNĐ1,000/10KB instead of having different rates for the five areas.
The Tuổi trẻ (Youth) newspaper quoted a MobiFone representative as saying that the operator had not yet announced a new roaming fees, but it was negotiating for competitive roaming fees.
Pressure from OTT
The reduction of data roaming charges started from the new regulation on roaming charges, however, according to many experts, this is the consequence of the popularity of Over-The-Top (OTT) applications, such as Facebook Messenger, Viber or Zalo, which allow users to make free calls or send free text messages only through an internet connection.
Vũ Hoàng Liên, Chairman of Việt Nam Internet Association, said that as the cost of international roaming was high, travellers ultilised free WiFi or purchased SIMs from foreign operators to use OTT services to call home, instead of using the roaming service.
Commenting on the race for data fee reduction, the chairman said that the purpose of this was to ensure subscribers used the roaming service, and the carriers could earn revenue from data services when customers use the internet on domestic 3G and 4G SIMs.
Huỳnh Thanh Phi, a marketing expert, said that the only way for operators to compete with OTTs is to reduce calling and SMS rates.
However, this was not a good solution as free WiFi in Việt Nam had been too popular and using OTT had become a habit with Vietnamese users, he added.
Phi said that carriers would have to bring call and message closer to zero in the future and earn money from data services.