China Telecom and China Unicom have announced a wide-ranging resource sharing agreement aiming to improve operational efficiency, including with plans to join forces on 4G rollouts in rural areas.
The operators have agreed to share some 4G base stations in addition to the tower-sharing agreement between China's three state-owned operators.
The agreement also covers combining buying power on the supply side in segments including networks and handsets.
On the handset front, the operators said they plan to jointly promote six-mode handsets with all network access as a national standard.
In times of disaster China Unicom and China Telecom also plan to assist each other's business recovery with a view to enhancing the availability of emergency communications capabilities.
The deal also encompasses joint co-operation with overseas operators to enhance the quality of international roaming services and enhancing network interconnection quality to improve the QoE for each operator's customers.
Forbes quotes Bernstein Research as estimating that capex savings from the deal could reach 19.1 billion yuan ($2.9 billion) over five years for China Telecom and 18.6 billion yuan over the same period for China Unicom.