On 18 May 2012, the Ministry of Information and Communication ("MIC") promulgated Circular No. 05/2012/TT-BTTTT ("Circular 05"), which will come into effect on 15 July 2012. Circular 05 classifies telecommunication services in Vietnam. Circular 05 will apply to telecom service providers and users, and to organisations and individuals involved in management, provision and use of telecom services in Vietnam.
Pursuant to Article 3.7 of the Law on Telecommunications, which came into effect on 1 July 2010, "telecommunication services" means services of sending, transmission, receipt and processing of information between two telecommunication service users or a group of users, and comprises basic telecommunication services and value-added telecommunication services.
Further legislation distinguishes between basic and value-added telecommunication services. According to Article 9 of Decree No. 25/2011/ND-CP (06 April 2011) ("Decree 25"), basic telecom services include, but are not limited to: (i) telephone services; (ii) facsimile services; (iii) data transmission services; (iv) image transmission services; (v) text message services; (vi) video conference services; (vii) private leased line services; (viii) internet connection services; and (ix) other basic services as regulated by the MIC. Value-added telecom services include, but are not limited to: (i) e-mail services; (ii) voice mail services; (iii) value-added fax services; (iv) internet access services; and (v) other value-added services as regulated by the MIC.
Circular 05 now classifies basic telecom services and value-added telecom services according to three criteria: technological characteristics and modes of transmission; form of tariff payment; and scope of communication:
- Based on their special technological characteristics and modes of transmission over telecom networks, basic and value added telecom services can be categorised as either: (i) fixed telecom services, including landline fixed telecom services and satellite fixed telecom services; or (ii) mobile telecom services, comprising landline mobile telecom services, satellite mobile telecom services, maritime mobile telecom services, and "air-to-ground" mobile telecom services. Circular 05 provides sub-categories for fixed telecom services and mobile telecom services.
- Based on the form of payment of tariffs, basic and value added telecom services can be categorised as either: (i) pre-paid telecom services, or (ii) post-paid telecom services.
- Based on the scope of communication, basic and value added telecom services can be categorised as either: (i) internal network services, between users of the same telecom network; and (ii) inter-network services, between users of different telecom networks. Different telecom networks can refer to either different types of networks of the same telecom company, or networks of different telecom companies.
Circular 05 also defines "additional telecom services" which means add-on services provided together with the basic telecom services and/or value-added telecom services in order to enhance the utility of the telecom services for the user.
The classification of telecom services is critical because it will determine the status of a service provider as well as the extent to which the service provider may operate in the market. Vietnam's WTO Commitments on Services contain a section on Telecommunication Services. The rights of foreign investors depend largely on how their specific business operations are categorised under the WTO Commitments. In addition, Vietnam's laws and regulations carry specific requirements and obligations for companies depending on the exact telecom services they provide. Circular 05 fills in some of the definitions necessary to provide further clarity for investors in the telecommunications industry.