China to slash mobile costs 30%, improve access to online services

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The Great Hall of the People in Beijing (Image credit: Bigstock/BackyardProductions)

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced plans on Tuesday to reduce mobile access costs by at least 30% nationwide as part of a broader push for the country’s digital transformation in a number of sectors, including healthcare, education, and sports.

The country’s largest political event, dubbed the Two Sessions, kicked off on Sunday in Beijing. Chinese corporate executives, including Tencent’s Pony Ma, Robin Li from Baidu, and Xiaomi’s Lei Jun, attend the meetings as delegates.

In his opening remarks at the National People’s Congress (NPC) annual meeting, Premier Li said China will continue to lower the cost of mobile networking services by more than 30% from 2018 by end-year. High-speed broadband services will also be offered across the country, improving experiences for rural-dwelling residents for remote learning tools and medical services.

China’s three major mobile carriers — China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom — had already lowered mobile access costs by more than 60% year-on-year as of the end of November, said state-owned media China Central Television, citing officials from the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) as saying on Monday.

Chinese tech entrepreneurs supported the call for better access on broadband and mobile, suggesting more government inputs into online public services.

Ding Lei, CEO of gaming giant Netease and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) delegate, proposed “online digital schools” as a way to deliver improved teaching resources from major cities to students in impoverished areas. AI-enabled products and services, including translation devices and oral language evaluation, could be leveraged to promote self-propelled learning, Tencent Tech (in Chinese) reported, citing Ding.

Xiaomi CEO Le Jun suggested the government prioritize establishing policy standards for medical wearable devices and related platforms, according to Chinese media. The NPC representative also appealed for more incentives for applications using the Internet of Things (IoT) in the public health sector.

China is accelerating the pace of 5G network deployment, MIIT Minister Miao Wei told local media, saying the first batch of temporary 5G licenses would “be granted soon.” Several 5G phone models are expected to launch in the second half of this year, although wider 5G adoption is more likely timed for this time next year, Zhang Yunyong, head of research affiliate of China Unicom told Shanghai Securities News.