China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology finally has issued the official virtual telecom provider licenses to the first-ever batch of fifteen companies today. Some of the big internet names like Xiaomi, Alibaba and JD are included in the list.

Aiming to open up the telecom market that’s dominated by state-owned telecom carriers of China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom, China allows virtual network operators to lease service capacity like roaming and text messages from conventional operators. The virtual operators do not own network infrastructures themselves and pay traditional carriers a percentage of their revenue as well as fees.

This final announcement comes five years after the authority first introduced the virtual telecoms pilot scheme in May 2013. It issued pilot operation licenses to eleven ‘mobile virtual network operators’, or MVNOs, at the end of 2013 and have gradually increased the number of virtual carriers to 42.

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Emma Lee

Emma Lee is Shanghai-based tech writer, covering startups and tech happenings in China and Asia in general. We are looking for stories related to tech and China. Reach her at lixin@technode.com.