According to experts in the field, communication systems are to metro lines what the nervous system is to the human body, without them the entire metro system will be incapacitated.
Maintaining a smooth and unobstructed communication system requires a unique radio band frequency, which, as the Ho Chi Minh City Management Authority of Urban Railways (MAUR) found, has proven to be a much more complicated matter than first thought.
According to MAUR, there are currently 11 metro projects in Ho Chi Minh City, two of which have been launched and will use their own radio frequency to communicate, control, and monitor their operation.
In 2008, the Authority of Radio Frequency Management (ARFM) under the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) issued a document agreeing to 'reserve' the frequencies until 2013 for MAUR to use on the city’s metro lines, according to the municipal Department of Information and Communications.
However, after the Law on Radio Frequencies came into effect in 2009, the 'reservation' of radio frequencies was outlawed, notwithstanding the fact that the initial reservation was set to expire in 2013.
The Vietnamese Ministry of Finance issued a circular in 2013 stipulating the fee for using a frequency, a document that did not mention anything about fees for 'reserving' frequencies.
The ARFM only agreed to 'reserve' the frequencies under the condition that MAUR pay a 'reservation' fee of VND800 million (US$35,000) per year, equivalent to the fee for actually using one.
The authorities thought this an unnecessary waste of money, given that the metro will not begin official operation until late 2020, meaning as much as VND3.2 billion (US$142,000) would have to be spent on merely 'reserving' radio frequencies.
After a period of consideration, the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City sent an official letter to MIC and the ARFM requesting the planning of a band frequency for the first and second metro lines.
Responding to this, the ARFM insisted on adhering to available laws and regulations, meaning MAUR would have to pay the entire fee for 'reserving' those frequencies.
The authorities, however, suggested that MAUR could wait until the trial phase of the metro lines to register for radio frequencies in order to avoid wasting money.
The solution presents another problem; there might not be enough suitable frequencies available by the time the construction of the metro lines is completed, because of the rapid rate of development in the southern metropolis.
According to the ARFM, there have been cases where other major projects failed to acquire a separate radio frequency, for a number of reasons.