Updated February 29th, 2024 at 13:35 IST

SpaceX’s plan to deploy Starlink services in Vietnam halts due to foreign ownership limits

SpaceX and Vietnamese discussions had been ongoing for months, with SpaceX representatives participating in a US business mission to Vietnam in March 2023.

Reported by: Business Desk
Starlink | Image:Starlink
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Starlink in Vietnam: SpaceX's plans to provide communications services to Vietnam using its Starlink satellites have been halted, according to three sources familiar with the matter. Talks between SpaceX and Vietnamese authorities, aimed at implementing Starlink services in the country, were put on hold when it became evident that Vietnam would not ease its strict foreign ownership limits.

Vietnam, facing recent internet outages due to disruptions in its major underwater fibre-optic cables, had been seeking to enhance its internet infrastructure. Additionally, the country requires satellite services for its remote mountainous regions and maritime areas, where it often encounters disputes with China over territorial boundaries.

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Discussions between SpaceX and Vietnamese officials had been ongoing for several months, with SpaceX representatives even participating in a US business mission to Vietnam in March last year. However, talks were suspended in the last quarter of 2023 when it became clear that Vietnamese lawmakers would not relax ownership restrictions for SpaceX.

The interruption in negotiations led to the suspension of Starlink's pilot services for Vietnam's coast guard, which had been using satellites to guide drones in the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand.

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Despite the halt in discussions, it remains uncertain whether talks between SpaceX and Vietnamese authorities will resume. SpaceX had been seeking an exception to Vietnam's telecommunications regulations, which limit foreign ownership to a non-controlling 50 per cent stake in telecommunication companies with network infrastructure. However, revisions to the country's telecommunications law in November did not address these limits.

In addition to providing civilian services, SpaceX had also been in discussions with Vietnam regarding potential technology services for military installations. This comes amid tensions in the South China Sea, where Chinese vessels, including coast guard and research ships, frequently traverse areas within Vietnam's Exclusive Economic Zone.

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China, which claims vast portions of the South China Sea, including areas within Vietnam's EEZ, has expressed concerns over the deployment of Starlink, describing it as a potential threat to space assets. However, the Chinese defence ministry has not yet provided comment on the matter.

(With Reuters inputs)

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Published February 29th, 2024 at 13:35 IST