'Standardised' services set as development goal
Beijing plans to 'tighten oversight' of charges for telecommunications services and open the industry to more private investment.
The National Development and Reform Commission said yesterday in a draft plan of economic development goals it wants to 'standardise' telecommunications services.
'We will expand the trials for integrating the telecommunications network, the radio and television broadcasting network, and the internet,' the commission said in its report, released as the annual National People's Congress kicked off. 'We will implement and improve policies and measures to promote the development of the non-public sector.'
The government has for years been pushing the 'three-network convergence'. In 2010, 12 urban centres including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen were made 'experimental' cities, the usual step before an initiative is adopted nationwide.
Xiang Ligang, an analyst on information technologies and telecommunication, said there were also other opportunities in the telecoms industry that would attract private investment. 'The traditional business of information exchange is still the base, but for the future, there are new services like mobile internet and electronic business that the carriers can explore,' he said.
Private companies have limited access to the rapidly growing telecommunications industry on the mainland, home to the biggest number of mobile phone users in the world. Official figures show that by the end of January there were 988 million cellphone users.
All of the mainland's phone and broadband carriers are state-owned, with foreign investors and non-public capital limited to minority holdings in publicly traded units.
'The main obstacle is that the telecoms industry requires huge amounts of money,' Xiang said. 'Most private investments are just not big enough to open the door.'
In November, the NDRC said it will investigate two telecom giants for monopolising broadband services. China Telecom and China Unicom, which account for more than two-thirds of the market, allegedly used that dominant position to fix prices.