The decision and the future of a director

By 1995, the telecom market had uniquely been controlled by VNPT. In 1995, Saigon Postel came into being in order to break the monopoly of VNPT and make the market more competitive.

However, in reality, up to 2000, though Viettel (now the Military Industry-Telecoms Group) had joined the game (licensed to operate in 1995), the telecom sector was completely controlled by VNPT. That is because both Saigon Postel and Viettel were low in capacities and lacked new services capable of sharing the market with the giant “VNPT.”

Things started to change after Dr. Mai Liem Truc signed the license allowing Viettel to be the first and the only VoIP service provider at that time. Truc may have never known that the signing then created a landslide change for the telecom sector to thrive and laid the foundation for the making of the number-one telecom group Viettel.

Photo for illustration

It was strange then for Truc, who started work at VNPT and just became the director of the Vietnam Post, to sign a decision in favor of a newly-born company like Viettel. To defend his opinion, he had to face a lot of difficulties ranging from the doubts for the success of Viettel to the risk of losing his post. However, he overcame all of those doubts as he put aside partial benefits to bring greater interests to the country. If Viettel had not developed the VoIP service, then it would have never had investment capital and experience with other services and the open policy for the telecom sector would have just remained on paper.

Recalling the decision that day, Dr. Mai Liem Truc said, “We cannot do anything for the country if we just work to keep our posts. I did not fear losing my post, but feared to fail to improve our working capabilities...”

The start of a low-cost telecom revolution

At 8:15 on October 15, 2000, the Vietnam Television broadcast the promotion program “Dial 178 – Your saver code,” officially marking a new game among telecom service providers with the joining of Viettel. After Viettel, VNPT and Saigon Postel also debuted their VoIP services via the codes 171 and 177, offering a policy like that of Viettel.

At that historical moment, Truc recalled that he felt like electricity was running down his spine. “I was just as happy and full of joy as a person living alone for too long now suddenly sitting next to another one.”

The advent of the VoIP services made a sharp change in telecom charges, opening up an era of low-cost telecom services for everyone. The charges for long-distance domestic and international calls plunged from VND 4,820/min to VND 1,819/min (for domestic calls) and USD 2.9/min to USD 0.5/min via the VoIP code of 171 and USD 0.048/6 sec via the VoIP code of 178 (for international calls).

The application of the VoIP services is an important step in the telecom sector, as it helped licensed companies thrive and accumulate capital and shaped subscribers’ habits. Joined by Viettel and Saigon Postel, the telecom sector of Vietnam shifted from a monopolistic, fragmented, and backward to a more competitive one, promoting development.

In the following six years, Viettel was always the leading company in reducing charges for VoIP services to expand its subscribers and open new directions for services. The company has made considerable contributions to shaping an era of low-cost telecom services for the Vietnamese people.

Major General Le Dang Dung, Acting Chairman and Director General of Viettel, one of those who built the VoIP plan of Viettel those days, said, “Since the early days, we have always hoped to bring services to everyone and contribute to national socio-economic development and make the services affordable for everyone. That’s the reason why Viettel has always been the first to reduce charges so that poor people and those in remote areas can all enjoy telecom services.”

In fact, few people know that the success of the VoIP 178 service helped Viettel complete its investment payback in just… a day. Income from the VoIP service brought the military company then USD 10 million to invest in mobilephone services and build a springboard for the great leap of Viettel in its later phases.

Translated by Huu Duong