Vietnam has over 90 millions in its population. However, the MIC has averaged out that there are 145 mobile phones for every 100 Vietnamese. Thus, there is a majority of Vietnamese having more than one phone. With fierce competitions, the country top carriers are trying to stay on the market by having promotions such as rewarding pre-load balance on new SIM cards. Therefore, users are owning more than one number at a time. Once the pre-load balance is gone, they could ditch the SIM card and buy another one. This could explain the numbers we have seen thus far.According to Wireless Intelligence, the government has only granted four 3G licenses to Vinaphone (2009), Mobifone (2009), Viettel (2010), and Vietnamobile (2010). The growing number of 3G subscribers was very promising that LTE licenses were granted. However, due to the cost to implement the infrastructure is high, these licenses were returned. Thus, the country might not be able to have LTE network until 2018. Even though there is a big number of mobile users out there, these top mobile carriers in this South East Asian country are facing difficulties. In recent years, they have been losing billions of Vietnamese Dong due to OTT applications.
Why OTT Applications Are Winning the Market?According to Tech in Asia, Viber is Vietnam’s top OTT application. Both Line and Viber let the users to make phone calls, send and receive text messages via 3G connection or the Internet. Zalo is the country’s local application. Although Zalo does not provide calling option, yet, users could send voice-recording messages to each other. Besides these popular applications, people who are owners of iPhones, Blackberry, or Samsung could take advantage of these in-phone services (such as Facetime, iMessage, or Blackberry Messenger).
One of the many reasons why OTT applications have become more and more popular is because it’s cost effective. Spending a little more than $10 per month for a 3G package would be a lot cheaper than constantly buying credit refills from making phone calls and sending text messages.
Moreover, OTT applications have given Vietnamese users what the Vietnamese mobile carriers have not yet provided for the longest time: the ability to share photos, videos, voices, and a lot more. Users on these OTT platforms could also form group chats to include more than one person in each conversation.
Another feature that is noticeably important in these applications is the ability to send emoticons and stickers. Users can accurately demonstrate how they are feeling through cute, and sometimes animated stickers and emoticons. These little features make the conversations more fun to have.
Is There Going To Be a Battle?
Losing billions of Vietnamese Dong to these OTTs, the Vietnamese mobile carriers are definitely not happy. The recent hikes on the 3G packet price are attempts to recoup their losses. Even though the official reason for the increases on price is said to cover production costs, yet, Vietnamese users are not satisfied with this explanation. Many are said they would be happily pay for the higher price if the quality had increased. However, they are feeling cheated by paying so much for such dull quality of the 3G service.
There are also rumors that the mobile carriers are working to denied access to these OTT applications. Viber, Line, and other foreign OTTs are experiencing an increase on lag time, inability to send or receive messages, etc. Although the claims are dismissed by official authorities, yet, many believe this is not a fair-play.
So, there you have it. Of course there is a battle. When it is all going to come down to business, profit and ability to control the flow of information are crucial. However, I believe it does not matter what tactics there are in play, whoever can demonstrate that they can provide the market with the best features will win. Plus, users have become more informed. So they will choose to join the side that they believe is doing the right thing.
I will conclude this post with a quote from Dave Pelzer, as a reminder for the Vietnamese mobile industry, as well as its users:
“Something good comes out of every crisis.”