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S-Fone workers demand pay

Update: July, 17/2012 - 09:39

HA NOI — Ailing mobile carrier S-Fone has made most of its employees in Ha Noi redundant in order to end its Business Co-operation Contract mechanism and change to a limited liability company.

The decision was reach-ed under an agreement between Saigon Postel (SPT), S-Fone's parent company, and S-Fone's trade union, according to a company representative.

Viet Nam News reporters yesterday were unable to reach S-Fone officials for information about the fate of its employees.

However, a hotline operator who asked to remain anonymous said there was no information from S-Fone regarding her future.

She said S-Fone had sent her a letter informing her about the redundancy with a promise to fulfil all its duties.

Viet Nam News has seen that several S-Fone outlets in Ha Noi have closed with no notice boards. Mean-while, former employees of S-Fone in Da Nang last Saturday gathered in front of the company branch asking for the company to keep its commitments after they were dismissed last month.

They said the company had failed to fulfil its commitment to compensate them for their premature dismissal and unpaid salary.

Having started operations in Viet Nam in 2003 as the third mobile operator after MobiFone and Vina-phone, S-Fone was a joint venture between Korean telecom giant SK Telecom and SPT.

The company also became the first mobile operator to apply the advanced CDMA technology (Code Division Multiple Access) in Viet Nam, while other carriers used the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications).

However, due to the limited model of CDMA's terminal handsets, the company was unable to raise its customer base, with just over 1 million after a decade of operations.

After SK Telecom withdrew from the venture last year, S-Fone has been unable to find a new investor to develop its ailing network.

The company, which also wants to change its network technology from CDMA to HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) to trigger demand, had a turnover of merely VND786 billion (US$37.78 million) in 2011.

Another mobilephone company, Vietnamobile, last month planned to seek a bailout from the Government to stave off bankruptcy as the operator was struggling to compete in a telecom market dominated by three major players.

Meanwhile, Gtel Mobile in April spent $45 million to acquire a 49 per cent stake in the Beeline network, a brand currently owned by Russia's second-largest telecom operator VimpelCom.

Even before Beeline announced its withdrawal, others mobile networks were already experiencing major problems.

The Vietnamese telecom market, which has 135 million phone subscriptions, is dominated by VinaPhone, Mobi-Fone and Viettel, which hold a combined 95 per cent market share, while Beeline, Vietnamobile, and S-Fone share a minuscule 5 per cent. — VNS

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