Ministry asks firms to cut overseas roaming rates, roll over unused data for customers.
China’s “Big Three” telecom carriers’ have been asked to make further reductions in overseas roaming rates and allow users to carry forward unused monthly data allowance, in the latest efforts by the government to regulate the sector.
The Ministry and Industry and Information Technology, also the industry regulator, said on Wednesday that the new directive follows public complaints that despite the high fees charged by the carriers, the speed and quality of the provided services remain poor.
Zhang Feng, the ministry spokesman, said the speed-enhancing and price-cutting initiatives will be completed by October and will result in lower, roughly about one-third, mobile traffic fees nationwide.
Zhang said the carriers will introduce 2-gigabyte per month 4G traffic packages between 50 yuan ($8) and 60 yuan. The international roaming fees have already dropped by more than 80 percent on average since May.
The new budget is very affordable and can meet most of the demand. Lower roaming fees will also greatly benefit Chinese tourists, according to Zhang.
“We are asking carriers to launch affordable traffic packages that suit all types of users. It is the primary goal of the initiative,” he said.
The ministry is also looking to cut the prices of cable connections by 20-30 percent from the average price in May.
The “Big Three”－China Mobile Communications Corp, China United Network Communications Ltd and China Telecommunications Corp－did not disclose individual moves on Wednesday.
However, they reiterated their commitment to follow the ministry’s directive and cut service charges before the end of this year.
China’s Internet connection became a target of public criticism starting in May after Premier Li Keqiang said the service is “too expensive” and the speed is “too slow”.
Premier Li has repeated the request of lowering prices and lifting speed on several occasions over the past few months.
The top three carriers scrambled to answer Li’s call, introducing cheaper deals. But the moves did not go down well with the general public as they felt that the promotions offered by carriers were valid only very late in the night when most users are not likely to surf the Web.
Cheng Li, a user of China Mobile’s 4G service, said she hopes the traffic fees could be lower.
“I need about 1 gigabyte of traffic each month, but the deal I am using only covers 500 megabytes. I have to spend another 30 yuan for the other 500 megabytes, and that is a little too expensive for me,” said the 28-year-old sales manager who lives in Beijing.
Cao Shumin, president of the China Academy of Information and Communications, said the country’s Internet service still requires considerable investment to lift connection speeds to the next level.
“The connection speed in the cities is not that bad, when compared with other developing economies. The problem lies in the vast rural areas where the infrastructure construction is lagging behind,” Cao said.
China is building the world’s largest 4G network, with the number of 4G users rising by 128 million in the first six months.
The size of its telecom market exceeded 1 trillion yuan in the first half, representing a 23.2 percent jump over last year.