Vietnamese mobile market flourishing; consolidation likely – R&M

Vietnamese mobile market flourishing; consolidation likely – R&M

The Vietnamese telecommunications sector is a booming market with huge opportunities for local and foreign investors, reports Research & Markets.

The sector boasts a competitive environment and a positive economic outlook, with an average growth of 6-8% GDP expected between 2020 and 2025. With already strong mobile phone penetration and emerging fixed broadband take-up in households, future growth is likely to remain solid despite an aging population over the long term.

Mobile subscriptions will continue to grow in the 2019-25 period, while fixed broadband penetration  - and therefore subscriber numbers – will also increase over this period. The ratio of the telecommunications sector revenue to GDP is declining from a peak in 2015, sliding down every year since then.

Mobile revenue is growing faster than mobile subscription numbers, leading to ARPU growth as the market transitions from 2G & 3G to 4G mobile data services.

R&M expects the overall telecoms market to grow through to 2025 after a marked slow down in 2018 and 2019 due to legacy 2G voice & SMS revenue pressure partially offset by mobile data growth.

The CapEx to GDP ratio remained relatively stable between 2014 and 2018 but has been sliding in 2019 and is expected to remain at the same level through to 2025. Viettel, Vinaphone and Mobifone investing in line with revenue growth maintaining a stable CapEx to Sales Ratio.

In early 2020, the mobile subscriptions market just passed a tipping point with 3G and 4G subscribers exceeding 2G mobile subscriptions for the first time. Mobile network operators are facing competitive pressure with the market shifting from legacy prepaid voice and SMS to data-centric usage increasingly becoming the sole offering differentiator.

R&M’s benchmark study of mobile data pricing rated India as having the lowest rate per GB at just a few cents per GB. Australia and China had the biggest cost reduction per GB mostly due to increased data allowance in plans while Singapore remains expensive. Vietnam has a competitive pricing compared to other countries while the average monthly download is slightly lower due to Vietnam's late market entry with 4G.

The fixed broadband market is experiencing hyper-growth mostly driven by three players - VNPT, Viettel and FPT - all investing in full-fibre networks. VNPT actively migrated its MegaVNN (DSL) subscribers to its fibre FiberVNN network, while Viettel and FPT are focusing on their respective fibre coverage.

VNPT, Viettel and FPT invested heavily in full-fibre networks opening opportunities for bundling IPTV and e-Commerce services leading the fastest broadband migration to full-fibre networks in the Asia-Pacific region.

Household growth and new FTTH investments by VNPT, Viettel, FPT and others will drive up the fixed-broadband subscribers.

Investment funds are assigning high valuation multiples to telecommunications infrastructure assets such as mobile towers, data centres, submarine cable and fibre infrastructure.

The Vietnamese central role of the government in the telecommunications market with its three dominant players controlling over 90% of the market is limiting corporate activity. However, the government is also controlling sub-scale operators such as Gmobile, Hanoi Telecom, Saigon Post Tel, SCTV, among others which could be combined or merged.

As the market matures, competition intensifies, sub-scale operators will struggle to gain share and are likely to look for outside opportunities to increase scale. R&M expects a wave of consolidation in Vietnam, as the Vietnamese market is maturing and is likely to face stiffer competition.

However, in the medium term, the telco sector is likely to experience some corporate activity with the government selling down VNPT and Mobifone by up to 50%. This is a momentous development in the market as until now, the government controls over 90% of the telecommunications market. Introduction of private investments, strategic investors or stock market listing will increase much-needed disclosure, transparency and accountability into the Vietnamese telecommunications market.

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