HONG KONG Jan 9 China is considering a trial to
allow private firms to offer mobile services by acquiring
bandwidth from major carriers, in a step aimed at introducing
competition to the country's state-owned telecom industry.
China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said
in a statement it will solicit public opinion until Feb. 6 on
the plan, which would be a key step in liberalising the world's
largest mobile phone market, with more than a billion
The Chinese mobile market has three telecom carriers, China
Mobile Ltd, China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd and
China Telecom Corp Ltd, but only about a fifth of
subscribers are 3G users and the rest are low-end 2G users.
Under the proposed two-year trial, private firms could buy
bandwidth and offer rebranded services directly to consumers.
The ministry said the move would allow healthy competition
and improve services.
China's State Council said in 2010 that it would encourage
private investment in the telecom industry and promote
Foreign investment is still limited to minority holdings in
listed telecom firms, and foreign companies would not be allowed
to take part in the trial, the ministry said.
China pledged to gradually open the telecom sector to
foreign investors after it entered the World Trade Organisation
in 2001, although most foreign participants now are telecom
equipment makers, such as Alcatel-Lucent SA.
(Reporting by Lee Chyen Yee; Editing by Richard Pullin)