Public hearing to be held on domestic roaming fees

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 January, 2008, 12:00am

A public hearing on lowering the mainland's domestic mobile-phone roaming charges will be held this month, the country's top planning body said yesterday.

In the hearing to be held in Beijing, members of the public are to be invited to discuss a proposal to lower the cap on roaming fees put forward by the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Information Industry.

According to a statement posted on the NDRC's website, experts, mobile-phone operators and relevant government departments will also take part in the hearing.

It is unclear how much the authorities are planning to lower the cap, but mainland media have cited analysts as saying the top charge would be slashed to 53 per cent of the present fees.

The announcement of the hearing comes with Beijing under tremendous pressure to deal with social discontent among those struggling to cope with rising inflation.

The two government bodies announced last March that they aimed to cut the domestic fees last year amid increasing complaints about rising charges.

Mainland mobile-phone users are charged up to 0.8 yuan per minute for calls made or received outside the region in which their accounts are registered.

The policy has generated discontent among consumers, while observers have criticised it as an unwarranted and major source of profit because cross-province roaming actually involves few additional costs.

Industry watchers have also called for the fees to be scrapped because most other overseas markets do not impose additional charges for calls within the account-holder's country.

Beijing Mobile, a wholly owned subsidiary of China Mobile, China's largest mobile-phone operator, has recently dropped domestic roaming fees for Beijing users.

The European Commission has also recently rolled out a campaign to eliminate roaming costs within the continent.

The mainland's mobile-phone market is dominated by a duopoly of China Mobile and China Unicom.

Lou Qinjian , a vice-minister of the Ministry of Information Industry, said during the 17th Communist Party congress in October that the ministry had pushed for lower mobile-phone fees.

Booming business

China has become one of the world's largest mobile-phone markets

In 2005, the number of mobile users was 68 million. In 2006, it grew to: 461m