Vietnam celebrated the launch of its first satellite on Saturday, calling it a landmark moment in the country's economic development.
Vietnam's leaders gathered in Hanoi to watch the launch, which was broadcast live from French Guiana in South America. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said the telecommunications satellite will help promote business development in Vietnam and will ease the growing economic disparity between the country's cities and rural areas.
"This is very important to Vietnam's socio-economic development," he said. "It will help improve the lives of poor people in remote areas."
The Vinasat No. 1 satellite, built by Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems of Newton, Pennsylvania, will be ready for use in late May, said Vu Tien Hung, general director of Vietnam Post and Telecommunication Corp., or VNPT.
The US$200-million (euro130-million) satellite will help make telecommunication, television and the Internet accessible across the nation, Hung said.
Currently, businesses and the Vietnamese government rent satellites from Australia, Thailand and Russia.
Vietnam's economy has grown at an average annual rate of more than 7 per cent for the last 10 years. It has 19 million Internet users and more than 40 million telephones, according to government figures.