Until now, it’s always been easy to get a mobile phone number in Vietnam. You can just go into any one of countless retail stores and pick up a SIM card. You even have the chance to browse and pick out a “pretty number.” The more repeating numbers you have, the better!
This is all starting to come to an end however, as the Ministry of Information and Communication’s deadline requiring all prepaid users to register their mobile numbers just passed on January 1st, 2010. Individuals are only allowed to register up to three numbers per carrier. Officially, one of the main reasons is to counter the mass text advertising that plagues many Vietnamese phone users.
The new requirement, however, will also impede the practice of many local Vietnamese consumers to buy new SIM cards to take advantage of promotional deals. For example, it makes more financial sense for a person to buy a new SIM card for 50,000VND that comes with 100,000VND (to take one example) in the initial balance than to put more money into an existing account. Other promotional deals, such as deposit-matching for the initial three deposits into a new account can also be taken advantage of. In a country where poverty is still widespread, such roundabout methods of gaming the system are worth the hassle of changing phone numbers.
Whether the government’s requirements will be effective, however, remains to be seen. The registration requirement has been in progress for a long time now. Previously, retailers were required to register buyers, but got around the system by simply registering everything under themselves. Now individuals are required to register and carriers must enforce registration by shutting down service to unregistered or improperly registered numbers. It’s unclear, however, whether the carriers actually have the technical capability to do so.
This writer, however, is going to get his number registered just to be safe. And if I can’t, at least I’ll save some money by buying a new SIM card!