It is reported that Chinese authorities will release licenses for mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) around next June. License-holding companies will be allowed to run basic telecom businesses by renting infrastructure from telecom operators or even through the Internet. Rumor went further that Tencent would be one of the first to obtain such a license. What’s for sure is MIIT, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, confirmed in July that regulations on opening eight “basic telecom businesses” to private investments was under development .

I met with an investor from the U.S. back in May 2009. It was his first time to visit China and told me he thought Tencent should add Skype-like voice-calling service to its QQ IM. I had to tell him the big three state-owned telcos wouldn’t be happy to see a private company doing voice services (disclusure: I was working at Tencent as a tech reporter then). Back then only telecom operators were authorized to run phone calling and other telecom services.

MIIT would go after illegitimate internet voice-calling businesses. A handful emerged then, such as the well-known UUCall, had to stop their services all together. In some areas of China, local divisions of operators would even cut off users’ internet connections when finding anywhere the Skype voice service was in use.

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Tracey Xiang

Tracey Xiang is Beijing, China-based tech writer. Reach her at traceyxiang@gmail.com