BEIJING May 9 China will allow
telecommunications companies to independently decide tariffs for
their services from May 10, to promote competition and give a
greater role to market forces.
China Mobile Ltd, China Unicom Hong Kong
and China Telecom Corp Ltd - along with "the market" -
will determine the pricing of tariffs, the Ministry of Industry
and Information Technology said on Friday.
The government had previously set pricing bands.
The liberalisation is part of broader deregulation of a
telecoms industry widely criticised as inefficient, and will
allow state-owned carriers to target lower income customers in
rural areas where much of the potential growth is, analysts
"All telecom service tariffs will be regulated by the
market, and telecommunications companies can independently draw
up specific tariff structures, standards and billing methods,"
the ministry said in a statement on its website.
The move could also give mobile virtual network operators
(MVNOs) greater independence in how they structure tariffs.
MVNOs offer mobile phone services by leasing wireless capacity
"From a competitive angle, it turns the carriers into real
telecoms operators and they can learn how to compete as
businesses without government support," said Mark Natkin,
managing director of Beijing-based Marbridge Consulting.
"The growth is in rural areas. It will be easier for
operators to get a higher percentage of people on board for
mobile usage - one of the complaints was how high telecom fees
are related to income," he said.
Companies such as Alibaba Group Holding, JD.com Inc and
Suning Commerce Group Co applied for MVNO licences
last year. The first MVNO was launched last week.
China Unicom declined to comment on the tariff
liberalisation. Neither China Mobile nor China Telecom could be
immediately reached for comment.
(Reporting by Paul Carsten; Editing by Christopher Cushing)