updated 3/12/2008 11:53:00 AM ET 2008-03-12T15:53:00

Vietnam is preparing to launch its first satellite, hoping to improve the country's telecommunications to keep pace with its rapid economic development, officials said Wednesday.

Vinasat No. 1 is scheduled to be launched April 12 from Kourou spaceport in South America, and will be ready for use in May, Nguyen Ba Thuoc, vice general director of state-owned Vietnam Post and Telecommunication Corp., or VNPT, told reporters.

The $200 million satellite, which has a medium transmission capacity, will help make Internet and television accessible nationwide, Thuoc said.

"Vietnam has reached the point where significant improvements of the telecommunication infrastructure are needed for its economic and social development," said Thuoc. Better telecommunications would bring more investment into the country, he said.

Currently, businesses and the Vietnamese government are renting satellites from Australia, Thailand and Russia.

Vietnam's economy has grown at an average annual rate of more than 7 percent for the last 10 years. It has 19 million Internet users, and more than 40 million telephones, according to government figures.

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