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Vietnam is home to one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, as well as an expanding online population, according to a new eMarketer report, “Vietnam Online: Mobile Internet Will Drive Growth.” Driven by substantial investments from the government, the country now boasts an internet penetration rate of 35.6%, according to November 2012 data from the government’s Vietnam Internet Network Information Center (VNNIC). Vietnam’s internet user base has dramatically increased during the past 10 years, from 3.1 million in 2003 to 31.2 million in October 2012.
The country’s internet ecosystem remains complicated by the highly involved role its Communist government continues to play in both the wider economy and information and communications technology development. Thus far, the government has been the main force in telecom infrastructure investments.
According to the VNNIC, the number of people with access to broadband internet in Vietnam was 4.3 million in April 2013, climbing from less than 10,000 in 2003.
Internet penetration is especially high in the country’s five largest cities—Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Haiphong, Can Tho and Da Nang. The government’s General Statistics Office (GSO) reported that in 2012, 32.5% of Vietnam’s population resided in urban areas, where broadband is commonly available.
Mobile will be a key driver in broadening web access. In September 2010, the prime minister’s office issued a statement calling for mobile broadband to reach 85% of the country’s population by 2015, and then 95% by 2020. And Vietnam already has all the necessary ingredients for quick growth in mobile internet access.
Mobile phones have an incredibly high penetration rate in the country, largely due to the use of multiple SIM cards by customers. In December 2012, GSO reported that there were 121.7 million mobile phone subscribers, exceeding the country’s population of about 92.5 million by some 30 million subscriptions.
The state-run mobile service providers have borne the significant costs of building out infrastructure while keeping prices low for users, effectively subsidizing service plans. Cheap prices are carrying over to data packages as well, helping to drive mobile internet adoption.
Smartphones make up a significant but still small portion of the market. Nielsen in March 2012 surveyed consumers in five Vietnamese cities and found that three in 10 mobile phone users owned a smartphone. It can be assumed that smartphone penetration in rural areas is lower.
As the web user base grows, the internet is beginning to supplant other media. Mindshare found that among consumers in six of Vietnam’s largest cities, the average time spent watching TV daily fell from 140 minutes in 2008 to 124 minutes in 2012. In contrast, time spent online climbed from an average of 44 minutes per day to 84 minutes over the same time period.
The full report, “Vietnam Online: Mobile Internet Will Drive Growth,” also answers these key questions:
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