China issued telecommunications service licenses to 11 private firms yesterday, the latest move to open up the state-controlled industry in the world’s biggest phone market.
The firms, or virtual carriers, will be allowed to offer mobile services directly to consumers through purchasing bandwidth from China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom.
“It will make the telecommunications market more open and market-oriented. Users can enjoy enriched and customized services through the new players,” the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a statement.
The firms named yesterday included online retailer 360buy.com, handset distributor Tianyin and BusAP, a media provider on public transport.
The firms will be able to offer mobile communications services directly with their own brands and packages.
Telecom carriers have to provide bandwidth at “fair or favorable” prices, the ministry said. Previously, the ministry said it was proposing a two-year trial to allow companies to repackage and rebrand services to consumers.
The new policy is also an opportunity for companies such as Tencent, retail giants such as 360buy.com and media groups to penetrate the mobile Internet sector, analysts said.
Suning and Alibaba were not on yesterday’s list. The virtual carrier partners of China Mobile were not included in the list, which meant it was still possible for firms like Suning to get licenses, the ministry said.
Applications for licenses are open until July, the ministry added.
The move marks China’s latest bid to attract private funds to the telecom industry to enhance competition and service quality, analysts said.