The blast-off represents a big leap for communist Vietnam, a developing country that only introduced the internet a decade ago.
 
Ravaged by war and largely isolated until the early 1990s, Vietnam has seen a decade of rapid economic growth and is now racing to build the infrastructure to match the rising expectations of investors and its 86 million people.
 
Political importance
 
"This project is politically, economically and socially important," said Nguyen Tan Dung, the Vietnamese prime minister, soon after the launch from French Guiana.
 
He said it would help to "raise Vietnam's image on the international stage".
 
The Vinasat-1 project, worth around $300m, "puts Vietnam on the map of the world for using satellite communications", Tran Duc Lai, deputy information and communications minister, said.
 
"Demand for communications is now booming. Ten years ago we had only fixed telephones. Then we introduced mobiles. Since 1997 we started to introduce the internet.
 
"Now there is very high demand. We have around 23 per cent of people who can access the internet. By 2010 the target is to reach 40 per cent."