Posted by: Frederik Balfour on June 19, 2008
Hands up all you readers who hate paying internet connection fees at five star hotels when there is a perfectly good cafe nearby with free Wi-Fi. Whenever I’m in Ho Chi Minh City, for example, I like to start the day off right with a good strong jolt from a double latte at Cafe Centro just opposite the French-built colonial opera house in the heart of this teeming city. By the time I wander in, the place is usually full of full of well caffeinated patrons bent over their laptops. Like virtually all the cafes in this city formerly known as Saigon, the coffee is strong and the Wi-Fi free.
Sorry to state the obvious, but things sure have changed from when I lived in Vietnam in the late 1990s. When I first arrived in 1995 there was no internet access, and when I first got my local account in 1998, there were so few users the ISP actually provided a list of every user name online! Today the country has about 1.6 million internet subscribers, up from 200,000 a couple of years ago, part of a government push to get the country wired. Hanoi aims to have broadband in every household, or about 20 million, by 2015.
Broadband uptake has gotten a huge push thanks to initiatives by Intel, among other The chipmaker’s Country Manager Than Trong Phuc tells me that it has a deal with local ISP provider VNPT where consumers who buy a PC powered by an Intel chip get a free modem, free installation and the first month free. Since it launched the program late last summer, the number of new subscribers to VNPT has jumped from 20,000 per month to 80,000.
I also remember how it used to cost about $2 a minute to make overseas phone calls back when I arrived. For the same money today, you can get a monthly subscription using a cable modem @ 56Kbps/sec, though it’s capped at 2GB of data. Faster speed, say 256Kbps/sec will cost you five bucks.
So I invite you readers to provide me with an answer to one question. How come I can surf the net for free from my favorite cafe while I sip my latte, when 30 yards across the street the Park Hyatt you still have to pay the minimum 24 hour rental charge of $20.70? At cheaper hotels, those frequented by Vietnamese business travelers and other low budget guests, broadband is invariably free too.
By the way, if any of my editors or colleagues arereading this blog, I’m not just a cheap date when it comes to connection fees. I’m eschewing the Park Hyatt altogether and staying with friends.