China's Ministry of Information Industry (MII) will grant fixed-line operators licenses for mobile telecom services "at an early date", a senior official said here on Sunday.
The move would give the country's fixed-line operators, who have suffered losses in subscribers in recent months, equal footing with mobile service providers in competition for the huge telecom market.
MII Vice Minister Xi Guohua told a telecom forum that the rapid development of mobile telecom services had lured away subscribers of fixed-line services.
According to ministry statistics, the number of newly-added mobile phone users was 6.91 million in the first nine months, compared with 430,000 new fixed-liner users.
New fixed-line users have been at a record low of 200,000 every month since May. Losses in subscribers were also recorded in August and September.
Zeng Jianqiu, a professor with the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, said: "The canceling of fees for receiving calls via mobile phones since the beginning of this year has made it more difficult for fixed-line phones to compete with the more advanced and convenient mobile technologies."
Xi added that more than half of the country's mobile phone users had enjoyed the service of receiving calls free as promoted by the prepaid service packages.
Mobile phone users previously paid for both making and receiving calls, a difference that favored the fixed-line service which gave the latter certain advantage in vying for subscribers.
"The sagging performance of the fixed-line market has come to a point where it cannot be fixed by operators themselves," Zeng said. He urged the government to give fixed-line operators access to mobile services.
"It could create more competition in the telecom market and would benefit consumers."
Statistics revealed China's telecom service charges have been declining in recent years. The average charges were 62 percent lower in 2006 compared with that in 2001, or 11.5 percent lower if compared with the 2005 level.
The country's total phone users have exceeded 900 million until present, said Xi, adding that more than half of the revenue of the telecom sector was contributed by mobile services.
However, rural areas, especially those in central and western China, still lagged behind for coverage of phone services, as users were highly concentrated in coastal areas and the cities.
(Xinhua News Agency November 19, 2007)