Viettel has announced that it plans to build its own 5G network and promises to launch the network in June using its own equipment and software. As telecom operators don’t often build their own networks, this decision has certainly raised some eyebrows amongst industry experts.
Viettel’s bold decision to build its own 5G network could be due to concerns surrounding Huawei. Viettel's chief, Major General Le Dang Dung, said that he was concerned about reports that “it's not safe to use Huawei". And with tensions between China and Vietnam rising, the choice to build its own 5G network could be politically-motivated.
Viettel is actually controlled by Vietnam’s military, and asked its engineers to work on a radio base station, claiming that it had already "officially mastered 5G network technology".
"Currently, five companies have successfully produced network devices for 5G including Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, Samsung and ZTE," the company added in a press release. "Viettel will be the sixth supplier in the world to produce this device [and the] only operator that is capable of producing its own network equipment."
Others didn't do it overnight
Many industry experts are sceptical about Viettel’s unusual decision, though.
"It cost the other players billions of dollars to develop their own 5G portfolios and they didn't do it overnight," commented Dan Bieler, an analyst at Forrester Research. "If this is only about using certain components it has manufactured and designed, then that would not be such a huge story - but it's a very large claim to suggest it is in the same league as Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei."
Dimitris Mavrakis, from ABI Research, also expressed concern, "Even if it they could get past other hurdles, Viettel would have to pay patent and royalty fees to the likes of Qualcomm, Huawei and Ericsson, which would make it financially unrealistic to create and sell its own infrastructure. It would have to pay exorbitant amounts - the technology specifications and the intellectual property rights are very tightly controlled.
"It's not as if anyone can just jump in and create their own, otherwise other industry giants like AT&T, Verizon and Vodafone would also have done the same."