China Unicom

China Unicom unleashes mainland’s first nationwide unlimited 4G data plans

New initiative comes after company warns of sharp decline in full-year profit for 2016

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 February, 2017, 8:16pm
UPDATED : Monday, 27 February, 2017, 10:55pm

China Unicom, with an eye to drive subscriber growth, has become the country’s first mobile network operator to offer unlimited data plans for nationwide use.

Hong Kong-listed Unicom late on Friday launched two nationwide unlimited 4G data plans, called “Ice Cream Packages”, for 198 yuan and 398 yuan (HK$223.6 and HK$449.5) per month with no contract requirement.

The landmark initiative comes four weeks after Unicom warned that its net profit for 2016 would fall by 94 per cent on an annual basis from 2015.

“It is the first time that a Chinese mobile network player has come up with an aggressive data plan for nationwide use, compared with previous unlimited data promotions that subscribers could only use within a specific city or province,” Jefferies equity analyst Edison Lee told the South China Morning Post on Monday.

The operator’s 198-yuan package provides 1,500 voice call minutes and 15 gigabytes of data usage a month, while the 398-yuan package – available for 199 yuan only until March 31 – offers unlimited voice call minutes and 40GB of data. Consumption beyond those 15GB and 40GB monthly packages will see data speeds reduced to 3G levels.

“Unicom may see a strong take-up rate in the first month since these plans have no contract requirement, which could put pressure on China Mobile and China Telecom,” Lee said.

Whether China Mobile and China Telecom will be spurred to introduce their own nationwide unlimited 4G data plans likely depends on how well-received Unicom’s strategy will remain over the next few months, he added.

The analyst also pointed out that Unicom’s unlimited data pricing was largely geared for its high-income users.

All three mainland operators recorded healthy mobile subscriber additions in January, according to their separate regulatory filings.

China Mobile, the world’s largest wireless network operator, added 2.3 million new subscribers last month to push its total subscriber base to 851.2 million. The 1.8 million new subscribers signed up by China Telecom drove up its total user base to 216.8 million.

Unicom added 1.3 million new subscribers, which trailed the results of its two rivals. That brought its total user base to 265.1 million.