SpaceX and Vietnam’s MIC suspend talks on Starlink service

SpaceX and Vietnam’s MIC suspend talks on Starlink service

Talks between SpaceX and Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) to allow Starlink satellite broadband services in the country have reportedly been put on hold, as has a pilot project with coast guard drones using Starlink connectivity.

According to Reuters, citing “sources familiar with the matter”, SpaceX has had several meetings with MIC officials during the second half of 2023 to negotiate Starlink’s entry into the Vietnamese market.

However, the talks broke down when the MIC made it clear the government would not relax foreign ownership limits for SpaceX, the report said.

Vietnam’s current telecoms law, passed in 2009, limits foreign ownership to a non-controlling 50% stake of telecoms companies with network infrastructure. In November 2023, parliament approved a revised telecoms law that kept those limits in place.

Earlier this month, a draft decree to implement the 2024 telecoms law in July added a requirement that foreign satellite service providers must ensure that all traffic generated by satellite subscriber terminals in Vietnam passes through a local ground gateway connected to the public telecoms network.

According to a report from VNA, the MIC considers cross-border satellite communications to be a risk in terms of data from Vietnamese internet users being collected abroad and used illegally.

The Reuters report said there is no word yet on when talks between SpaceX and the MIC might resume.

The report also said that while talks were ongoing, Starlink was reportedly conducting a pilot project with Vietnam's coast guard, which was using Starlink satellites to guide drones patrolling the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. That pilot has also been suspended.

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