Vietnam kicks off first 5G spectrum auction

Vietnam kicks off first 5G spectrum auction

Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) has reportedly opened its long-awaited 5G spectrum auction to all players, starting with the 2500-2600 MHz band, with more bands to follow in the coming days.

According to the official Vietnam News Agency, the MIC opened the auction on Thursday, offering 15-year 5G licences for the 2500-2600 MHz band, with a starting price of VND3.9 trillion (US$158 million).

The MIC will also be offering spectrum for two other 5G mid-bands – 3700-3800 MHz and 3800-3900 MHz – on March 14 and March 19, respectively. The starting price for both of these bands is VND1.89 trillion, the report said.

MIC minister Nguyen Manh Hung said the auction is open to “all eligible enterprises”, not just existing mobile operators Viettel, Vinaphone, Vietnamobile and Mobifone.

However, the report added, the odds of other players taking advantage of the auction to enter Vietnam’s mobile market are slim, as the market is highly saturated and competitve. Viettel, Vinaphone, Vietnamobile and Mobifone have all seen profits shrink in recent years amid heavy competition as core voice and SMS revenues decline.

Between that and the cost of greenfield 5G network infrastructure estimated to be at least US$1 billion, there’s little business incentive for new players to come into the market.

Even for existing telcos, the business case for 5G is uncertain, as only 17% to 20% of devices in Vietnam support 5G connectivity, Nguyen Van Son, director of Viettel Telecom's Mobile Centre told VNA. He also said Viettel plans to focus its 5G deployments in locations where there is both high demand and a high concentration of 5G-compatible devices, such as “industrial zones, export processing zones and innovation centres.”

An October 2023 report from VNMedia said that the 2500-2600 MHz auction winners will be required to deploy at least 3,000 5G broadcasting stations using the band within two years after they receive the licence. They must also commit to launching commercial 5G services using the band within the first 12 months.

VNA reports that the MIC has set a target to provide 5G coverage to 99% of the population by 2025, with minimum data speeds of 100 Mbps.

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