HANOI -- Viettel Group, Vietnam's biggest mobile carrier, plans to launch ultrafast 5G networks in 2021, a move expected to promote self-driving car systems and other cutting-edge services that depend on nearly instantaneous data communication.
Rival mobile service providers like No. 2 and No. 3 MobiFone and Vinaphone are also expected to launch 5G around the same time. This would make Vietnam an early adopter of the advanced standard. The country was one of the last of Southeast Asia's larger economies to roll out 4G.
The plans by Hanoi-based Viettel, which has 66 million subscribers and controls more than half of the mobile service market, were reported by local media. The state-run company, which has been working on its 5G plans since 2015, will start making investments in infrastructure early next year and introduce the service first in big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
The 5G wireless standard is said to offer speeds about 100 times faster than 4G. Smartphones and similar devices are the primary users of 4G networks now. The 5G standard is expected to support new applications like remote medical procedures and autonomous driving.
The Vietnamese government plans to start allocating 5G spectrum to service providers next year.
Vietnam relied on imported base stations and other equipment for 2G and 3G networks, but the country will develop 5G infrastructure locally, said Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung, indicating that this will bolster economic development.
Setting up 5G networks will require a tremendous amount of investment, but mobile providers plan to boost their earnings by offering content that will enhance the user experience with ultrahigh speeds.
Viettel and its rivals launched 4G service only in early 2017, and this delay is said to be a reason for the slow development of the country's e-commerce and content industries.