* Deal worth $215 mln
* New satellite to be launched by May 2012 (Updates with contract value, details)
By Ho Binh Minh
HANOI, May 11 (Reuters) - U.S. aerospace firm Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) has signed a $215 million contract to manufacture and launch a second telecommunications satellite for Vietnam, the country’s top telecoms group, VNPT, said on Tuesday.
The contract is part of a larger project in which Vietnam would invest between $280 million and $300 million in order to launch the satellite into orbit by May 2012, said Hoang Minh Thong, head of VNPT’s Telecoms Project Management Department.
Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems, a unit of Lockheed Martin Corp, would build the VINASAT 2 satellite over 24 months and deliver it into orbit by May 2012, an official said after signing the contract with Hanoi-based VNPT on Tuesday.
In April 2008, Vietnam launched its first telecoms satellite, the $200 million VINASAT 1 built by Lockheed Martin, from French Guiana to reduce reliance on the leasing of foreign satellites and meet rising demand for telecoms services.
Up to 80 percent capacity of VINASAT 1 has now been used to transmit data, information to remote areas and help Vietnam monitor natural disasters and enhance national defence, VNPT officials said.
VINASAT 2 “will help enhance the capacity of Vietnam’s telecoms infrastructure”, VNPT Chairman Pham Long Tran said in remarks after the signing ceremony, as the group projected VINASAT 1 to be fully utilised by the end of 2011.
The new satellite, able to provide services such as television, voice and high-speed data with a 15-year life span, will also be used as a backup for VINASAT 1, VNPT said.
Nearly 24 million people, 28 percent of Vietnam’s population of 86 million, used the Internet as of the end of March, up nearly 14 percent from the same time last year, government statistics show.
The total number of new phone users surged 41 percent last year to 41.7 million, of which 37.7 million were mobile phone users, and analysts attributed the growth to the launch of high-speed 3G mobile phone services. (Editing by Lincoln Feast)