Can Vietnam Successfully Launch Homegrown 5G Services?

    29 January 2020

    A Vietnamese company says it has been developing its own equipment to launch 5G mobile services nationwide. But some experts question whether the country has the ability to develop what it is claiming.

    The company, Viettel Group, announced earlier this month it is aiming to launch 5G services beginning in June. 5G is the next generation in wireless technology.

    Visitors stand near a 5G logo at a display for Chinese fiber optic cable maker YOFC at the PT Expo in Beijing, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
    Visitors stand near a 5G logo at a display for Chinese fiber optic cable maker YOFC at the PT Expo in Beijing, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

    The announcement came after Viettel – which is run by Vietnam's military – demonstrated a test video call carried over its 5G network. Top officials from the government and Viettel attended the demonstration event in Hanoi.

    The officials said the equipment and software used to make the 5G call was developed by Viettel over a six-month period. The company says it plans to develop both civilian and military services based on its own 5G equipment and network.

    Viettel declared that with its technology development, it had become the sixth company in the world to produce 5G network equipment. The other companies working on the technology include Huawei, Nokia, Ericsson, Samsung and ZTE.

    Viettel did not name Nokia and Ericsson as partners during its demonstration of the new 5G equipment.

    Experts question claims of 5G

    Dimitris Mavrakis is the research director for ABI Research and an expert on the worldwide telecommunications industry. He told VOA he is doubtful about Vietnam's new claims.

    "I would say that a home-developed 5G infrastructure is impossible. Not only improbable, but impossible. Because it is very difficult," Mavrakis said. If such a process was so easy, he noted, major American companies "like AT&T and Verizon would have done it as well."

    Mavrakis said among the biggest problems Vietnam would face creating such a system would be huge research and development efforts and costly patents covering 5G technology. He added that Viettel most likely does not have any patents for intellectual property rights relating to the technology.

    "And in fact, Viettel doesn't have a big enough research and development workforce in order to create this technology," Mavrakis said. "Even Huawei and Ericsson and Nokia had to spend billions to create this technology," he added.

    Murray Hiebert is a senior associate with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

    Hiebert noted that Viettel has already expanded its telecommunications services to other Asian neighbors and beyond, and may want try to do this with 5G technology as well. "But whether that is realistic or not, I don't know," he noted.

    Hiebert said one reason he thinks Vietnam might have made the 5G announcement is to keep on a path of attempting to grow its international influence.

    The country takes over this year as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN. Vietnam is also serving until 2021 on the United Nations Security Council. In addition, Vietnam is preparing for its next Communist Party National Congress in January 2021.

    Hiebert said Vietnam's announced 5G plans could be used in 2020 to help fuel political support both at home and abroad.

    "So it's a big political year and some leaders may want to show that they are actually very capable of delivering on the economic and security front."

    I'm Bryan Lynn.

    Bryan Lynn reported this story for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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    Words in This Story

    network n. a system permitting people to communicate and share information through the internet using a computer or mobile phone

    stance n. an opinion or belief about something

    doubtful adj. unsure

    infrastructure n. the basic equipment and structures (such as roads and bridges) needed for an area to operate

    patent n. a legal right a person or company receives to make or sell a product

    intellectual property n. property such as inventions, research and media that carry rights for the owner to use, sell or gain from the property

    strive v. try very hard to do something

    capable adj. able to do something

    deliver v. to achieve something that was promised to do