Mobile data prices should fall by over 30% by the end of this year according to China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, as usage rockets 154% in a year. A nationwide program to increase data speeds while cutting prices has been underway for three years and has seen unit prices for broadband for the end user drop 90% and unit costs for mobile users fall by 83.5%, reports Yicai (in Chinese).

When it comes to mobile phones, China is less like a country and more like a region even though the telecom companies are all national state-owned enterprises. Buy a SIM card in one place and it is locked to that place. Calling other provinces is more expensive and leaving your province and using data or making calls is also more costly.

Various aspects of how customers are charged have been tackled and identified for future reduction. Higher rates long-distance calling charges within the country were dropped as of October 1 2017 and domestic data roaming charges will come to an end as of July 1 2018.

China’s domestic telecoms were a hot topic at this year’s Two Sessions political gathering in Beijing. Reducing costs is seen as an important part of pushing forward plans for a “Digital China”.

The scheme seems to be working as average monthly mobile traffic increased 154% year on year to April 2018 to reach 3.4GB. Broadband penetration has increased to and the average download rate has reached 20.15Mb/s in the first quarter of 2018, an increase of 54.3% on 2017. Mobile data speeds via 4G have increased by 54.3% to 19.12Mb/s in the same time.

The latest National Consumer Price index data for May released by the National Bureau of Statistics showed that from January to May, prices in general were up 2.0% compared to the same period of 2017, whereas overall communications tools and services decreased in price by 2.5% and 0.8% year-on-year, Yicai reports.

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Frank Hersey

Frank Hersey is a Beijing-based tech reporter who's been coming to China since 2001. He tries to go beyond the headlines to explain the context and impact of developments in China's tech sector. Get in...

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