Briefing: WeChat Pay adds offline mobile account top-ups

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What happened: Tencent-backed WeChat Pay has partnered with China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom, the three major telecom carriers in China for a service that allows subscribers to top up mobile phone accounts through WeChat Pay even when service is cut off and wifi is unavailable. Multiple regional operators under the three telecom carriers in southern Guangdong, central Hunan, and western Qinghai Provinces are currently offering the service, which spans more than 100 towns and cities. The number of operators providing the service is expected to exceed 20, covering hundreds of millions of users.

Why it’s important: Staying connected online is becoming essential in China with 4G and soon 5G service. However, an overdue phone bill means that the telecom operators will cut off service completely, leaving users unable to top up their accounts. The solution may prove especially significant for rural dwellers, where mobile is the primary means of internet access.