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Anti-Spam Initiatives Reshape Vietnam Telecom Sector

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Vietnam has started to witness the positive outcomes of the Ministry of Information and Communications’ (MIC) stringent actions against spam SIM cards, with a significant decrease in the sale of both “junk” SIM cards and ready-activated SIM cards.

Frequently, SIM card agents employ people to register a SIM card with their own information and then activate the card for resale to other users. MIC conducted working sessions with telecom carriers, urging them to cease this violation.

According to the Ministry, only by rigorously supervising the development of subscribers and implementing strict control measures, the presence of junk and unauthorised SIM cards can eventually be eradicated from the market. It had issued a policy warning that if it continued to observe the widespread sale of junk SIM cards, it would suspend mobile network operators’ development for a duration ranging from 3 to 12 months, depending on the severity of the violation.

Under the increasing scrutiny of MIC, telecommunications companies have tightened control over the distribution of SIM cards through their sales agents. According to MIC, the policy was “a “strong dose” of medicine which can cure the “chronic disease” of the telecommunication market.” It has yielded swift results, as SIM card sales agents have quickly complied with the new regulations.

An online Vietnamese newspaper affiliated with MIC conducted a small-scale survey across 20 SIM card sales agents in eight districts of Hanoi. The findings revealed that nine out of the 20 agents, constituting 45% of the surveyed agents, were still involved in the sale of “junk” and ready-activated SIM cards.

In the remaining 11 transaction points, equivalent to 55% of the surveyed agents, the owners declined to sell junk SIM cards when prospective buyers inquired about them. Some sales agents told customers that they had discontinued the sale of new SIM cards because the telecoms blocked the activation.

After surveying sales agents at the four best-known retail chains in the city, the newspaper found that all four retailers sold only authentic SIM cards with information registered by real owners. They were not selling pre-activated SIMs. Alongside the service points established by telcos, these are prestigious SIM card distribution channels supported by MIC. About 20% of total SIM cards put into circulation go through the two channels.

Furthermore, as part of MIC’s efforts to reduce the number of junk SIM cards in the market and under Decree 49 on mobile telecommunications, all SIM cards that were registered with incorrect or incomplete information were deactivated by the end of March this year.

Telecom carriers need to update procedures and regulations on registering subscribers’ information following the decree. In addition, mobile network operators are required to uphold their commitments with MIC and comply with the requests outlined in the legal documents issued by the Authority of Telecommunications (AoT).

Last month, MIC announced plans to implement additional wholesale policies aimed at establishing a more transparent legal corridor, making it easier for virtual mobile carriers to negotiate when buying traffic.

Mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) do not own telecommunications infrastructure but still offer mobile services by leasing infrastructure from carriers. As of August, MIC has licensed five businesses to provide virtual mobile network services in the country. VNTA statistics show that as of 30 April, there were about 2.65 million subscribers of virtual carriers in the country. This accounted for 2.1% of the total number of subscribers in the entire mobile market. To foster development, virtual carriers should identify services that genuinely enhance user experiences, such as catering to niche markets unreachable by major carriers.

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