Viettel Drops Vietnam, Cambodia And Laos Roaming Charges

Cambodian mobile service Metfone is the most profitable overseas operation of parent telecommunications company Viettel.

Vietnamese telecom operator Viettel Group will risk losing over $1 million per day in revenue by scrapping roaming charges on cross-border calls made between their networks in Vietnam (Viettel), Cambodia (Metfone) and Laos (Unitel) from January 1. The hope is that the loss will be offset by an increase in subscribers keen to take advantage of the international calls and internet access charged at domestic rates.

Viettel managing director Nguyen Manh Hung was quoted in daily newspaper Vietnam News that the decision to eliminate roaming charges, which can run as high as $2 per minute, would cost the telco around two percent of its turnover. “Regardless, the policy will definitely promote trade and business among the three nations,” said Nguyen.

Military-run Viettel, which currently operates in nine overseas markets with a total subscriber base of 90 million customers, posted revenue of $10.8 billion in 2015 – up 20.8 percent from the previous year. The company’s most profitable overseas subsidiary is Metfone in Cambodia, which launched in 2009 and generated $256 million in revenue last year.

Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia spokesman Im Vutha said Viettel’s new strategy was likely in response to fierce competition from over-the-top communications services such as Facebook Messenger, Line and WhatsApp that offer an online alternative to traditional voice and message communications. Vutha also noted that any fall in Metfone revenue would also affect the Cambodian government, as the company pays an annual licence fee as well as a tax on net profit.

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