The ten ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries must rapidly develop their telecommunications networks to avoid missing out on the global information age, according to Mai Liem Truc, secretary-general of Vietnam's Department General of Posts and Telecommunications (DGPT).
Speaking at the fifth annual meeting of the ASEAN Telecommunications Regulators' Council in Hanoi last week, Truc said that deficiencies in telecommunications networks would worsen imbalances within ASEAN and increase the gap between developed and developing nations.
"The development gap includes information gaps between the haves and the have-nots due to differences in accessibility to information infrastructure, especially the Internet, and a trading gap between those countries capable of using e-commerce for trade and business transactions and those who cannot," Truc said in a transcript of his speech.
Government organizations should also start applying a new unified framework and management to the currently independent sectors of telecommunications, informatics and broadcasting to stay abreast of modern developments, he said in the transcript.
An important part of the development process lies with regulators, as countries where telecommunications liberalization and competition are still not yet taken into serious consideration will lag those that have opened up their markets, according to Truc.
National monopoly carriers still dominate the fixed-line basic telecommunications service in ASEAN countries, except in the Philippines and Malaysia, he said. Most countries have opened up their cellular phone and Internet access markets to some degree, but prevent foreign companies from owning a majority share in telecommunications or ISPs (Internet service providers).
Vietnam remains one of the most closed telecommunications markets, which is putting the country at a disadvantage, Truc said.
"It is vital for Vietnam to map out a suitable future strategy for opening the domestic market, encouraging healthy competition and setting aside certain stakes for foreign players so as to contribute to the general trend of renovation of the entire country," he said in the transcript.