BEIJING, May 20 (Reuters) - China will spend more than $182 billion to boost Internet speeds by the end of 2017, a top government body said, as Beijing moves towards a more service-driven economy to boost growth.
The State Council said the government will invest more than 430 billion yuan ($69.3 billion) this year on network construction, with at least another 700 billion yuan ($112.8 billion) spent over the following two years.
The goal is to accelerate the development of fibre optic broadband and high speed 4G mobile networks, the governing body said on its website.
China ranked 82nd in the world for average Internet connection speed, slower than Malaysia, Thailand and Taiwan, according to cloud computing services provider Akamai’s State of the Internet report for the fourth quarter of 2014.
Improving that standing is crucial for the world’s second largest economy, which is experiencing the slowest growth in decades and is seeking to diversify away from low-tech manufacturing and development.
On Tuesday, China unveiled a vision for the next stage of its economic ascent, moving from low-tech manufacturing to advanced industry in areas such as space, e-commerce, green energy and bioengineering by 2025.
Premier Li Keqiang has also already identified the Internet and technology as vital catalysts for the shift towards an economy centred around services.
China’s three state-owned wireless carriers are also on board. Last week, China Mobile Ltd, China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd and China Telecom Corp Ltd said they would cut mobile data prices and boost data speeds this year, potentially spurring a mass migration of customers to more lucrative 4G contracts. ($1 = 6.2040 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Paul Carsten; Editing by Miral Fahmy)