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Vietnam Ponders Regulations on Free Chat Apps

Free chat apps such as Viber, Wechat, Whatsapp and Line have become extremely popular in Vietnam. Providing free chat and calls, domestically and internationally, these tools appear on the majority of smartphones in the country. But there’s one group that isn’t particularly happy about this trend – state-owned telecommunication companies.

Even with low costs for texts and calls in Vietnam, many now rely on the aforementioned apps to communicate. And it makes sense. Why run down to the store when you’re out of credit when you can just use an app? Oh yeah, and they’re free too.

Apparently, these apps are so popular that local telecoms claim they are losing a huge amount of revenue.

According to a representative of Viettel Telecom, "We will lose 40-50 percent of our revenue if all of our 40 million customers use Viber instead of traditional call and text." With 17 million smart phone users in Vietnam, a number that will likely skyrocket over the next few years, telecoms probably realize that this is just the beginning.

While some worry about a ban on these apps, executives such as Jong Buhm Park, Chief Executive Officer of NHN Vietnam, the developer of Japan's Line app, say it won’t happen, "The government has more options, like cooperation between OTT and network providers," Park told Reuters.

It will be interesting to see how local telecoms approach this issue as any resolution would likely involve revenue sharing. But as these apps are free, it’s anyone’s guess where the money will come from.


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