Vietnam plans enhanced CDMA mobile phone network

Vietnam is to build a US$230-million CDMA (code division multiple access) mobile phone network with data transfer capacity of 144k bps (bits per second), the country’s telecommunications regulator said Thursday.

This is the first CDMA network to be built in the country, and will adhere to the enhanced second-generation standards being deployed in countries such as Japan, according to regulator Department General of Posts and Telecommunications (DGPT). These standards have been nicknamed 2.5G, as they represent a halfway stage between current (second-generation) technologies and the third-generation (3G) networks being licensed in Europe and Japan.

The much faster speeds of 2.5G networks enable better data transfer functionality for applications on top of voice services such as mobile Internet access and messaging between mobile phone users.

A contract to build and operate the network has been signed between local company Saigon Post and Telecommunications Joint Stock Co. (Saigon Postel) and its partners, a South Korean consortium called SLD Telecom, majority-owned by SK Telecom Co. Ltd. with stakes held by LG Electronics Inc. and Dongah Elecomm Corp.

Construction of the one million subscriber capacity network will begin in the first half of 2001, after the granting of a formal license, DGPT said, and will be the first basic telecommunications service without the participation of the state telecommunications monopoly Vietnam Posts & Telecommunications Corp. (VNPT).

Vietnam currently has two nationwide GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) networks, with a total subscriber base of around 620,000. Those networks have been in operation since 1995, requiring constant upgrades to keep pace with rapid subscriber growth.

The largest operator is VinaPhone, owned by VNPT, with 328,000 subscribers. The other operator, Mobifone, is jointly operated by VNPT and Swedish company Comvik AB. Mobifone had 295,000 subscribers at the end of September, according to VNPT figures.

Saigon Postel, in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, can be contacted online at