We all remember the whole fiasco that resulted when Viber was banned in Saudi Arabia (if not, you can read about it here), and now it looks like it’s about to get that way in Vietnam as well, and not just for Viber, but for other messaging and calling apps as well.
According to Reuters, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said that the Vietnamese government will be evaluating policies that will allow it to “manage” free web-based apps such as Viber, WhatsApp, and LINE. Specifically, the prime minister said the government would “build and promulgate the policies” in managing the free communication services on the internet (Over-The-Top (OTT) services.)”
Why? While Reuters sights it as a possible attempt at censorship, the “face value” story is the same tired tale we’ve heard before: wireless providers want to protect their bottom line, which includes voice and text messaging — the very features VoIP and messaging apps have built in for free.
“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, told state media.
While an outright ban similar to what we saw in Saudi Arabia is a possibility, it’s not clear what exactly will happen. What is clear, though, is that wireless providers in many countries don’t seem to be ready for the inevitable shift to data-based phone plans that carry minimal calls or messages through the mobile networks. So while the OTT services are not regulated, only time will tell if things stay that way.