Exclusive: SpaceX & Vietnam’s negotiations on Starlink paused until December 2023

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Feb 29, 2024

The negotiations between SpaceX, billionaire Elon Musk’s company, and Vietnam regarding the provision of communication services via Starlink satellites have hit obstacles, as reported by three sources familiar with the matter.
This setback has led to the cessation of support for drones operated by the Vietnam Coast Guard, which relies on the communication services provided by Starlink satellites for their operations. For the latest updates and to uncover the full story, stay tuned with Tinasoft.


SpaceX’s Starlink satellite communications service stopped

This postponement comes at a critical time for Vietnam as the country is working to upgrade its internet infrastructure following recent connection outages. In addition, there is an urgent need for satellite services to serve communication needs in remote and challenging terrains such as mountains and coastal areas.

These areas often lack reliable terrestrial communications infrastructure. Furthermore, the seas are especially important due to frequent conflicts with China over disputed boundaries in the East Sea.

  • According to three sources familiar with the matter, SpaceX’s ambitious plans to furnish VN with communication services through its Starlink satellites have been postponed.
    • This delay represents a setback in the deployment of advanced communication infrastructure in VN and suggests potential challenges in accessing reliable and high-speed internet connectivity, especially in remote and underserved areas.
  • As a consequence of this postponement, vital support for drones operated by the VN Coast Guard has been halted. The drones, crucial for surveillance and security operations, rely on communication services provided by Starlink satellites.
    • This interruption could impede the Coast Guard’s ability to effectively monitor maritime activities, especially in regions prone to territorial disputes and illegal activities at sea.

Reasons and situation in Vietnam

VN is planning to upgrade its internet infrastructure after experiencing connection outages at five major undersea fiber optic cables. In particular, mountainous and island areas of VN, where the deployment of traditional communications infrastructure is difficult, need support from wireless communication solutions such as satellite services.

Amidst the ongoing tensions between VN and China regarding territorial disputes and maritime sovereignty, the provision of stable and secure communication services in border areas and at sea becomes a crucial factor. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) deployed by the VN Coast Guard, equipped with satellite-guided systems, play a significant role in monitoring and maintaining maritime security in contested areas.

The negotiations between SpaceX and VN authorities have been ongoing for several months, but they were interrupted in the fourth quarter of 2023. This interruption led to the suspension of the Starlink trial service for the Vietnamese Coast Guard, which utilized these satellites to guide unmanned aerial vehicles in the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand.

Therefore, continuing the negotiations and seeking collaborative solutions between SpaceX and the VN government is crucial. Efforts from both sides are needed to ensure that the deployment of communication services not only brings economic benefits but also guarantees security and stability in the region.

According to an industry source, SpaceX had been pursuing an exception to Vietnam’s regulations, which restrict foreign ownership to a non-controlling 50% stake in telecommunication companies with network infrastructure. However, despite SpaceX’s efforts, the revision of Vietnam’s telecommunications law approved by parliament in November did not relax these restrictions. Moreover, a draft decree released in February, intended to enact the revised law, introduced additional requirements for satellite service providers concerning local presence and data traffic controls.

The industry source also revealed that SpaceX had engaged in discussions with Vietnam regarding the provision of technology services for military outposts.

Kết luận

The disruption in negotiations between SpaceX and the Vietnamese government marks a turning point in VN’s efforts to improve internet infrastructure and expand communication services. This could impact the activities of the Vietnamese Coast Guard, particularly in their use of unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance and patrols at sea, especially in disputed areas with China.

However, with advancements in technology and satellite services, opportunities for continued collaboration may still exist in the future between SpaceX and VN. Stay tuned to Tinasoft for the latest updates.


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