Vietnam mulls 'banning' mobile messaging apps

Vietnam mulls 'banning' mobile messaging apps

Summary: Government will reportedly decide whether to build policies to "manage" mobile chat apps such as Viber and WhatsApp due to the pressure they have put on local telco revenues.

Vietnam's government may ban mobile chat apps such as WhatsApp because of the damage caused to local telcos' revenues.

Vietnam's government is considering banning mobile messaging apps such as Viber, LINE and WhatsApp to protect the revenue of local telcos.

According to the Vietnamese prime minister, the government will "build and promulgate the policies" in managing the free communication services on the Internet's over-the-top (OTT) services".

Reuters reported on Tuesday,  while it was not clear what the government plans to do, state media said Vietnam might "ban" all OTT services.

This comes after after the government ordered all foreign Web sites including Facebook, to have at least one server in Vietnam and announced a new clause that blogs and social media profiles of individuals are only allowed to share personal information instead other forms of information starting September 1, 2013.

A spokesperson of Viettel Telecom, one of the country's largest telcos, told state media, "We will lose 40-50 percent of our revenue if all of our 40 million customers use Viber instead of traditional call and text."

However, John Buhm Park, CEO of NHN Vietnam, the developer of Japan's LINE, told the newswire a ban will not happen. "The government has more options, like cooperation between OTT and network providers," Park said.

Another country, Saudi Arabia has reportedly planned to block access to chat programs if they fail to comply with requirements set by the country's telecom regulators.

Industry watchers however, advise telcos must be open to partnering app developers to share end-user data with them to allow integration with the user's social connections, or cooperate with each other to face the challenge.

Topics: Censorship, Apps, Government Asia, Mobility, Telcos

Ellyne Phneah

About Ellyne Phneah

Elly grew up on the adrenaline of crime fiction and it spurred her interest in cybercrime, privacy and the terror on the dark side of IT. At ZDNet Asia, she has made it her mission to warn readers of upcoming security threats, while also covering other tech issues.

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  • Business 101?

    Perhaps I'm missing something, isn't this just supply vs demand? They (telco) supply connectivity, due to the demand of data services? If they claim to lose 40-50% of their revenue, that they would then adjust their products and pricing to accommodate that loss? Perhaps bring to market new services that can bring in new streams of revenue? Perhaps I'm looking at things from a too simplistic view?
    • They haven't "got it"...

      when it comes to the competitive market concept yet. They are not like the Chinese; but then the PRC blocks Google for political reasons, so half dozen one way or six the other.
    • Communist 101?

      There are 3 major players in Vietnam telcos and all of which is either run by the government or well connected to the government. That said, the law is their business plan. Not only they are not lowering the price but raise it (more than double). Their rationale, making up for the loss revenues. Meanwhile they are waiting for the government approval to ban those VOIP apps. Might is right.
  • Are you serious?

    I agree with previous commentator, banning is not a solution. Most telcos just adopt with the change and change their data prices and packages which mean that sending sms is basically free but at the same time the earning on data charges.
    And definitely they should rather look into new possibilities, develop their own apps to meet the demand. Telcos in general must now put more focus on innovation to be step ahead. For example they could focus more on business users not so much on private. SMS is still one of the best mediums for businesses to communicate with their customers.
    Recently wrote about the same topic, if you are interested to read:
  • No no no

    No they have no right to ban for using OTT services, instead they increase data plan rates charge. For 3$ you have 500MB/month. That's so cheap. isnt it?
    Daniel Nguyen