Beijing finalises cuts to roaming call rates

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 February, 2008, 12:00am

In a move seen as deepening mobile-phone operators' domination of the mainland telephone market, the government has confirmed that it will lower the limit on domestic roaming charges for mobile users by an average of 63 per cent. The changes apply from next month.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Information Industry and the National Development and Reform Commission jointly unveiled the final version of new domestic roaming charges, shortly after announcing the second draft plan before the Lunar New Year holiday.

Mainland mobile-phone users need to pay an extra tariff when they travel away from their registered home network. For example, a Guangdong-registered user will have to pay domestic roaming charges when using the phone from Fujian.

The latest tariff revision limits the cost of receiving a call at 40 fen per minute when users are travelling, and 60 fen per minute for making a call. Both prepaid and postpaid users are entitled to the same tariffs, according to the announcement.

For postpaid users making a call away from their home network, the per-minute charge will fall 50 per cent to 60 fen from 1.20 yuan.

Prepaid users will enjoy savings of more than 70 per cent when receiving a phone call while travelling away from the home network, paying just 40 fen per minute as opposed to 1.40 yuan.

Under the new scheme, trunk charges arising from making domestic roaming calls are also waived. Until the scheme takes effect, users need to pay to call long distance on top of roaming charges.

The government stipulates that the two mobile operators, China Mobile and China Unicom, will have to adjust their tariffs and billing systems to meet the new pricing cap and bring all subscribers under the new scheme by May.

Mobile operators are not permitted to increase their tariffs if they charge lower than the government price limits.

'The final scheme seems more aggressive than expected, which should address the users' request to lower phone bills,' an analyst said yesterday. He said the lower tariffs would increase usage.

At a public hearing last month, fixed-line operators namely like China Telecom and China Netcom Group Corp expressed their concern that lowering mobile phone tariffs would strengthen further the dominant position of China Mobile.


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