Reacting to strong demand for ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) broadband services, the government has allowed a second company to start offering broadband in competition with state carrier Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Corp. (VNPT).

VNPT said on its Web site that it expected it will soon have to stop taking on new subscribers for its MegaVNN service in Hanoi, where the service was launched in July, as demand has outstripped the initial plan of providing 3,000 lines. VNPT said it will speed up investment to increase capacity to 10,000 lines in Hanoi.

The Corporation for Financing and Promoting Technology (FPT) has now begun offering an ADSL service in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City under the names Megabiz and Meganet with guaranteed minimum download speed of 192K bps (bits per second) and upload of 128K bps. Customers will pay 1.25 million dong (US$83) per month to use Meganet, the official Saigon Internet Center reported.

VNPT said it expected to provide ADSL coverage in 17 of Vietnam’s 61 provinces by the end of the year.

Vietnam is making an accelerated drive to bring consumers — and particularly businesses and government — online. As of August this year, the country had 612,000 Internet subscribers and an estimated 2.49 million Internet users, or 3 percent of the country’s 82 million population.

In Southeast Asia, this figure places Vietnam well behind Singapore (54 percent of whose population are Internet users and about 7 percent already use broadband), Malaysia (33 percent), Brunei (9.7 percent), Thailand (9.48 percent) and the Philippines (3.7 percent), but ahead of Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, the Vietnam Internet Network Information Center reported.