How to navigate a network crash: an expat's story

January 06, 2023 - 12:00
This is a letter Việt Nam News received from a reader regarding MobiFone's service outage in HCM City on January 4. MobiFone services were resumed later that day. 


A MobiFone customer struggles to connect to the network on January 4th. — Photo

Kim Kim

If someone had asked me a month ago what item I would miss the most if it were taken away, I would have immediately said my mobile phone – a fact that was proven when MobiFone's service went out on January 4, before being restored. 

Little did I realise that as I was cycling around District 3 back from the gym, I would witness my phone getting crushed and obliterated before my eyes. Anyway, no big deal, I have to return the bicycle and buy a new phone after making a few stops.

Yet, if somebody had asked me that very same question a week ago during Christmas, I would have said my credit card. You see, when persons unknown hack your account and decide to deposit your hard-earned cash in Facebook advertisements, you understand that the bank has got your back, and you will inevitably get a refund in a fortnight after spending a few hours at your local branch.

However, if somebody asked me now, I would steadfastly retort with my 4G. Combining the fact I had a somewhat working mobile phone and that I did not yet have access to a credit or debit card since it had been locked, you would think that life in Saigon would be alright. Haiz. Here is how it all went down:

My SIM card, registered with MobiFone at exactly 4:30 pm on Wednesday, 4th January as work finishes, decided not to boot up their system and allow me to get a taxi home. Perplexed, I looked around and see the local school children mulling around and trying to locate their ride home, but to no avail. Being proactive but not so astute, I went to the store and topped up my phone, thinking I have forgotten to renew my Mobifone monthly subscription. Nothing happened, but a text came through acknowledging my payment. Still, no 4G…no cash…no credit card…how does a person get home now?

After 2km casually strolling home and in a mood, I went to a local store and asked if I could access their Wi-Fi; I was lucky and managed to find a Grab. But I realised I couldn’t transfer any funds as I did not have 4G for banking. So, I trundled on. After 6km, I managed to get home and start raiding my unfrozen food for the rainy days.

My story is not the only one that surfaced throughout these four hours of turmoil; one of my friends fired his cleaner as she did not call him and explain her whereabouts. Another friend was lost somewhere in Bình Thạnh when he should have been in Thảo Điền. Another friend had bought his SIM card at the airport and, for three hours, was lost completely, thinking he had been ripped off. Another was late for his rendezvous with a potential date, and he never made it: alternatively, think about the receiving end of those recipients.

I have learned from this experience that I must be much more engaged and switched on so that other people who rely on me will not suffer. And the truth is that unnecessarily many people suffered throughout this block out: not a warning, not an apology, no immediate response.

Yet, the positive outcome has been the overwhelming positive behaviour of our Vietnamese compatriots. Many expats who had no service were welcomed in for free Wi-Fi or somebody would book and order for that person and make sure they had arrived home. Others had Grab drivers allowing them to follow their path to their destination. Others have realised they must tighten their ship and get their house in order. All in all, a painful experience, yet somehow advantageous.