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In Vietnam, For Every 100 People There are 145 Mobile Phones

Texting in traffic has become a part of Vietnamese modern culture. | comic art by phong210.wordpress.com

With Vietnam’s internet penetration at 34 percent and the latest Facebook growth statistics showing Vietnam to be one of the fastest growing Facebook populations in the world, the real growth factor for the country is mobile. Well, new numbers are out for this year, and mobile growth has not abetted.

For every 100 Vietnamese people, there’s 145 mobile phones. For a country whose population is just over 90 million, that amounts to more than 130 million mobile phones. This is a country hungry for connection, communication, and texting – preferably without pricey laptops and broadband fees. It’s a place where motorbike drivers spend their idle time in traffic jams texting each other or letting their friends know they’ve almost arrived, and where even CEO’s interrupt important business meetings for personal phone calls.

The extra 45 mobile phones per person 100 people are mainly the result of mobile telco deals that locals take advantage of. Every month, major carriers like Viettel, Mobifone, and Vinaphone release deals where customers can buy double the minutes for their phone. By owning two SIMs, customers can take advantage of deals from multiple carriers. Another double-phone trick has been to buy a new SIM that is pre-loaded with minutes. Buy a new SIM for $3 and receive $5 of calling/texting time. Therefore, most Vietnamese people who have two phones are texting with one phone and receiving texts on another phone.

Despite the staggering growth of mobile phone adoption, Vietnam has experienced a slowdown in 3G and smartphone growth. This has coincided closely with the slowing economy. On December 3, Vietnam’s IT minister announced that there were 10 million 3G subscribers, a number well below the statistics from Wireless Intelligence which say that Vietnam has over 15.5 million 3G subscribers.

Despite Vietnam’s slowdown in mobile internet adoption, this market is still considerably bigger than the social media markets. Although Facebook just hit 8.6 million users, surpassing Zing, Vietnam’s local internet giant with its 8.3 million users, the huge mobile and mobile internet userbase suggests there’s lots more social growth to come.


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