For the ICT (information, communications and technology) sector, 2013 was a highly eventful year. The ICT Press Club, which comprises 50 leading ICT journalists from across the country, yesterday chose the top 10 events for the sector this year.
1. Telecom providers increased the cost of 3G services
On October 16, the three big telecom companies – MobiFone, VinaPhone and Viettel – increased their 3G Internet connection service charges by 40 per cent.
The all-inclusive price for 3G services, which includes MIU of MobiFone, MiMax of Viettel and MAX of VinaPhone, was adjusted to VND70,000 per month (US$3.33) from the earlier price of VND50,000 ($2.38).
Users are provided with 600MB with high-speed download capacity. However, the Internet access speed will be lowered to the average speed level.
The price of the 3G package for students was also raised to VND50,000 from VND30,000 ($1.42).
Mobile carriers said the hike would help them to increase their investments in 3G to serve their users better in the future.
MIC had approved a proposal from the three telecom service providers to raise the 3G charges by 20 per cent. However, the price was up by 40 per cent.
This is the second time that 3G charges have been raised this year, after a 30 per cent hike in April.
2. OTT boom
Mobile operators in Viet Nam are in danger of losing millions of dollar every year because of the increasing use of "over the top" phone services through smartphone applications and other services, analysts have warned.
Smartphones have opened the door to ‘disruptive' newcomers. Suppliers of OTT services have been luring customers of traditional network operators by offering messaging services and voice-over-internet-protocol (VOIP) calls via smartphone applications.
OTT services can take several forms, but voice and message applications have become the biggest headache for mobile network operators.
Rather than pay for an SMS message or a phone call, people are using Skype (bought by Microsoft last year), WhatsApp (the brainchild of two ex-employees of Yahoo!), Rebtel (a Swedish start-up), Viber, Voxer and other applications to send messages and videos and make VOIP calls for free. They may incur data charges, but with Wi-Fi access, even those charges can be avoided.
The turnover of Viet Nam's biggest three mobile network operators is already taking a beating as more and more people are opting to use OTT services instead of their telecom network.
3. Decree 72 on Internet management
Decree 72, or the "Management, Provision, Use of Internet Services and Information Content Online," was signed by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung on July 15.
This decree specifies the management, provision and use of Internet services, online information and online games, as well as the rights and obligations of organisations and individuals.
This decree is applicable to Vietnamese and foreign organisations and individuals engaged in or related to the management, provision and use of Internet services, online information and online games, and provides assurance on information security.
4. Several online newspapers become DDoS victims
Several Vietnamese online newspapers incurred a string of DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks in early July. Internet security experts noted that the attacks were "violent," "well organised" and "purposeful."
At 4.11pm on July 7, when accessing the Dan Tri newspaper at dantri.com.vn, readers were faced with the message "Ban hay thuc hien phep tinh de tiep tuc su dung bao Dan Tri," indicating that access was denied.
Dan Tri was just one of the many online newspapers that fell victim to Internet hacking. Several newspapers became inaccessible because of these attacks. Internet security experts have noted that the attacks might have been planned for a long time because they were conducted in a very methodical fashion.
HVAOnline, a security forum, reported that since July 4, Thanh Nien, Tuoi Tre, Dan Tri, VietNamNet and Kenh 14 have been the victims of DDoS attacks, adding that the number of hacked online newspapers is on the rise.
It is estimated that each of the newspapers endured a DDoS attack with a capacity of 50-70 Mbps, which even increased to 1.3 Gbps for some newspapers.
5. Three telecom tycoons jumped into the TV market
Three Vietnamese telecom tycoons – Viettel, FPT and VNPT – applied to the Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) for licenses to provide cable TV services.
Since their infrastructure is capable of providing different services, they will be able to quickly provide cable TV services to 20 million households. Their actions promise a boom in this market in the future.
However, only Viettel was given approval because of the Viet Nam Television's (VTV), the Viet Nam Pay-TV Association's, VCTV's, and SCTV's petition to MIC, which argued that pay TV is a non-core business for these groups.
In addition, since these groups don't have advantages in producing content, their entry into the pay TV market will only increase the royalties of sports and entertainment shows from foreign suppliers.
6. Nokia and Samsung invest in Viet Nam
World leading phone makers opted to invest and establish factories in Viet Nam. In October, Samsung was given a licence to invest US$1.2 billion to produce mobile phone accessories in northern Thai Nguyen Province, bringing the total investment in Viet Nam to $6 billion.
Meanwhile, Nokia, at the same time, opened its first $320 milllion factory in Viet Nam to produce feature phones.
7. ‘Made in Viet Nam' micro satellite sends signals to earth
On August 4, 2013, Pico Dragon, along with three other super-small NASA satellites, was sent to the International Space Station (ISS) by Japan's Kounotori 4 (HTV-4) cargo spacecraft.
The satellite launched into orbit at 7.17pm on November 19 (Viet Nam time) and four hours later, it sent signals back to stations in Japan.
As programmed, the device, which is 10x10x11.35cm and weighs nearly one kilo, will take pictures of the earth, gather data on the space environment and conduct tests of communication systems.
Pico Dragon was wholly created by young Vietnamese engineers and researchers of the Viet Nam Academy of Science and Technology, VNSC's parent agency.
In May this year, Viet Nam sent its first remote sensing satellite, VNREDSat-1, into orbit from a launch pad in French Guiana, an overseas territory of France in South America.
Earlier, the country launched two other telecommunication satellites, Vinasat 1 and Vinasat 2, in 2008 and 2012.
8. VNPT appoints new general director
Tran Manh Hung was appointed General Director of the Viet Nam Post and Telecommunications Group (VNPT), replacing Vu Tuan Hung, in October.
Hung's appointment is a promotion from his previous post as Deputy General Director. Hung, 54, has held many high-level positions at the group, including Director of Ha Noi Post and Director of Ha Noi Telecoms.
Last year, VNPT's revenue climbed to VND130.3 trillion (US$6.2 billion), exceeding its annual target by 0.3 per cent.
9. Digital TV replaces analogue
Viet Nam plans to cease broadcasting analogue TV in the five biggest cities by 2015 as digital TV takes over.
According to Information and Communications Minister Nguyen Bac Son, digital TV is an irreversible trend around the world and the project to convert to digital transmission by 2020 will lead to better quality services.
Under the transition programme, households will have access to digital TV in a variety of forms by 2020. The State will help about 2 million poor families buy set-top boxes to decode digital TV signals.
Under the project, future TV companies will concentrate on developing content, while other companies will focus on broadcasting.
10. Internet providers demand clarity
Conflicts of interest between Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and also between ISPs and Internet Content Providers (ICPs) prompted a debate during the year. Experts called for a new ruling from the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) to resolve the matter.
MIC has said it will introduce rates for Internet connections to help reduce/eliminate the conflict of interest between individual ISPs and between ISPs and ICPs.
Under the current regulations, ISPs are allowed to share Internet-related infrastructure facilities, while connection fees will be decided by the MIC.
However, a problem has arisen among those who are responsible for paying the connection fees. Many ISPs cannot reach an agreement on the fees and, as a result, direct Internet connections between them have been severed.