China is set to further open up the nation’s mobile market by giving out formal commercial licenses to private firms reselling mobile services as a virtual network operators.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) launched a public consultation last week seeking industry input and feedback on the government’s proposal to issue commercial MVNO licenses to all qualified market players, including foreign-invested firms. Consultation will close on February 22.
The move comes after over four years of MVNO trials in the country. It also marks the regulator’s latest push in bringing greater foreign investment and more competition to the country’s “unbalanced” mobile market that dominated by stated-owned China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom.
In mid-2013, the MIIT moved to open up the country’s mobile market to MVNOs and instructed the three state-owned operators to partner with multiple MVNOs for the trials.
Since then, there are 42 domestic private firms, including Xiaomi, JD.com and Snail Mobile, participating in the trials, reselling mobile services with their own brands in 29 provinces across the country.
According to the MIIT statistics, China had over 60 million MVNO subscribers, accounting over 4% of the country’s mobile subscriber base by the end of 2017. The MVNO market has attracted private investment worth 3.2 billion ($505 million), the regulator said.