Roaming charges may go in Qianhai
Hongkongers who do business in the new special zone of Qianhai may not have to pay roaming charges on their mobile phones under plans announced by the Shenzhen government yesterday.
The plan, intended to help the 15 square kilometre zone become the Manhattan of the Pearl River Delta, met with uncertainty from Hong Kong telecommunications providers, who impose the fees on any customers travelling across the border.
According to the official Shenzhen Special Zone Daily: 'As the co-operation of Shenzhen and Hong Kong is getting closer, living in one city and working in another city has become a choice for many residents. However, the expensive telecommunications fees have formed a bottleneck for the cultural integration of the two places.
'In the next five years, this bottleneck will be gradually widened as our municipality explores new models of telecommunications development in the Qianhai area.'
It cited a five-year plan by Shenzhen's telecoms authorities as saying they were considering abolishing the separate area code and even sharing telecommunications infrastructure.
The five-year plan said little about how the Shenzhen government was planning to proceed with the vision. But it is consistent with a raft of incentives to attract Hong Kong investments to the narrow strip of land across from Yuen Long.
Douglas Li, chief executive of local telecommunications service provider SmarTone, said he had not heard about the proposals.
Only if local providers could cover Qianhai with their own signals could they exempt mobile users from roaming charges, he said. In the meantime, it was not appropriate for them to spill their signals across the border, which was the territory of mainland providers such as China Mobile, he added.
To make a call from Shenzhen to Hong Kong by roaming costs a SmarTone user HK$5.55 per minute. Receiving a call from Hong Kong costs HK$6.50 per minute.
China Mobile charges users HK$6.48 per minute for incoming calls, and HK$5.71 for outgoing calls. A China roaming package charges a flat rate of HK$3.40 per minute.
Three Hong Kong currently charges HK$6.80 to HK$8.30 per minute for receiving calls in Shenzhen, and HK$6.65 per minute for calling a Hong Kong number.
Meanwhile, Shenzhen mayor Xu Qin said the city was also lobbying the central government to make it easier for Hong Kong financial institutes to do business in Qianhai. The initiatives include plans to establish a Qianhai bank, boost online banking and cross-border yuan business, and set up new exchanges for commodities, insurance, gold and financial derivatives.
The state economic planner would convene an inter-ministerial meeting this week to consider the proposals ahead of forwarding them to the State Council, a report in the Southern Metropolis News said.