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Vietnam's Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) reportedly opened its long-awaited 5G spectrum auction to all players, beginning with the 2500-2600 MHz band and expanding to other bands in the coming days.

According to reports, the MIC launched the auction on Thursday, offering 15-year 5G licenses in the 2500-2600 MHz band for a starting price of VND 3.9 trillion (USD 158 million).

On March 14 and 19, the MIC will also offer spectrum for two additional 5G mid-bands: 3700-3800 MHz and 3800-3900 MHz. The starting price for both of these bands is VND 1.89 trillion.

MIC Minister, Nguyen Manh Hung, stated that the auction is open to "all eligible enterprises," not only the existing mobile operators (Viettel, Vinaphone, Vietnamobile, and Mobifone).

The Current Market Landscape

However, the report also stated that the chances of other players taking advantage of the auction to enter Vietnam's mobile market are slim, given the market's saturation and competition. Viettel, Vinaphone, Vietnamobile, and Mobifone have all seen profits fall in recent years due to intense competition as core voice and SMS revenues decline.

With the cost of greenfield 5G network infrastructure estimated to be at least USD 1 billion, new players have little incentive to enter the market.

Even for existing telcos, the business case for 5G remains uncertain, with only 17% to 20% of devices in Vietnam supporting 5G connectivity, according to Nguyen Van Son, director of Viettel Telecom's Mobile Centre. He also stated that Viettel intends to focus its 5G deployments in areas with both high demand and a high concentration of 5G-compatible devices, such as "industrial zones, export processing zones, and innovation centers."

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