Price Cuts to Stir Vietnam's Flagging Net Market

SINGAPORE (01/31/2000) - Regulatory body Vietnam Directorate General of Posts & Telecommunications (DGPT) will allow Internet access prices to fall by around 25 percent in an effort to encourage greater use of the Internet and e-commerce in the country, DGPT announced Friday.

Although public access to the Internet has been available for two and a half years, only 45,000 of the country's 76 million citizens have signed up, despite official enthusiasm for the Web and a relatively liberal access environment.

The current online charges are 290 dong (2 US cents) per minute during the day and 200 dong per minute at night. These charges, as well as monthly subscription fees and connection charges, will be reduced soon, DGPT said in a statement issued late last week.

Several barriers to more widespread Internet use in Vietnam still exist, particularly the country's low per-capita income, according to DGPT Secretary General Mai Liem Truc.

In terms of developing business-to-business electronic commerce, an incomplete legal system and poor qualification of management officials hindered development, Truc said in the statement. An e-commerce development strategy has recently been submitted to the government for approval, he added.

According to a DGPT survey carried out in December, only 16 content providers in the country had opened Web sites. Very few of Vietnam's large state-owned companies have Web sites yet, and the only real 'Net buzz is to be seen in the booming Internet cafe markets in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Private enterprises account for 26 percent of Internet subscribers in Vietnam, while foreign individuals and enterprises make up 37 percent, Vietnamese individuals 20 percent and state-owned enterprises 14 percent, according to estimates by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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