The cost of mobile data in China has dropped by more than 46% in the first half of the year compared to the same time last year, according to the government.

The numbers were released by the State Council Information Office, which functions as the chief information office of the Chinese government, at a meeting on July 24 to discuss the development of the telecommunications industry.

Despite the decline in cost, China still lags far behind when it comes to overall internet speed. The country currently ranks 141st globally, with an overall reported download speed of 2.38Mbps. For the sake of comparison, South Korea—ranked 30th worldwide—achieves speeds of 20.63Mbps.

However, government indicators of the country’s average internet speeds are far more optimistic. According to the China Broadband Speed Report, the average speed increased by 2.29Mbit/s  to reach an average of 16.40Mbit/s for downloads at the end of 2017. There is also a significant disparity between the speed of the internet in major cities and other areas, with Shanghai and Beijing ranking the highest.

China, which has over 770 million internet users, double the entire population of the US, has goals to both lower the cost of data and improve its speed as part of a government initiative. On July 1, data roaming charges between provinces were dropped. Previously, when moving between provinces, mobile users were required to pay additional fees for using the same network operator outside of their province, much like the charges that apply when using these services internationally. The government also expects overall prices to drop by 30% by the end of the year amid increased usage. 

Additionally, government efforts are pushing fiber optics, better 4G coverage, more powerful servers and increased bandwidth for international traffic. The move forms part of the “Digital China” initiative, which was much discussed at this year’s Two Sessions political gathering in Beijing.

Christopher Udemans is TechNode's former Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covered Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, cleantech, and cybersecurity.

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