We've seen plenty of countries around the world try to censor Internet properties, most recently Turkey, which cracked down on Twitter following protests in the country. In Vietnam, though, there a ban may be put into place for an entirely different reason: competition.
Vietnam may wind up banning free messaging services, such as WhatsApp, Line and Viber, as a result of the harm they do to the country's network providers, according to a report from Reuters on Tuesday.
The speculation comes after Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said late last week that the government will be soon be deciding a new policy in how to manage these tools. What that means is so far unclear, but a ban certainly would not be out of the question.
"We will lose 40-50 percent of our revenue if all of our 40 million customers use Viber instead of traditional call and text," a representative of Viettel Telecom, one of the country's biggest phone network providers, is quoted as saying.
Right now, Vietnam is a country with big potential growth. It has 17 million smart phone users, and 60 million citizens under 30 years old. That is a big potential customer base, and the network providers will not be giving it up without a fight.
The company that Vietnam is most likely worried about is Line, the Asian mobile messaging platform that recently reached 200 million users. The app is growing remarkably fast, having reached 100 million users in January and 150 million users in April. The service only launched in June 2011, so it took only two years to get to the 200 million mark, making it one of the fastest growing companies in tech history.
Line is a smartphone app that allows users to make free calls and messages to one another, both nationally and internationally, regardless of which mobile network provider they are using. Users can make free voice calls on iOS, Windows Phone, and Android over 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi.
Having apps like this would normally be a good thing for competition. It would force the network providers to either lower prices, or provide better service, to keep in business. Unfortunately, Vietnam is a single-party Communist country, and one that is seemingly uninterested in having such competition.
There is precident for Vietnam enforcing such regulations on Internet properties: just two weeks ago the government ordered that all foreign websites had to have at least one server hosted in Vietnam in order to operate in the country.
Vatornews has reached out to WhatApp and Viber for comment.
(Image source: http://www.theverge.com)