MVNO growth falls short of target, but segment shows potential; Unicom lines up FDD-LTE expansion

19 Nov 2014

Mobile World Live writes that the head of China’s Virtual Operators’ Industry Alliance expects the nation’s mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) to account for at least one million subscribers by the end of the year. Although this is a far cry from the ten million anticipated by sector watchdog the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), it suggests that the situation is not as gloomy as was initially thought. As previously noted by CommsUpdate, China’s MVNOs complained earlier this year that excessive wholesale rates charged by mobile network operators (MNOs) – in some cases higher than the prices charged by operators for equivalent services to their own customers – was limiting the profitability and competitiveness of MVNOs. MIIT has handed out MVNO licences to 25 companies to-date as part of a two-year trial to test the potential for virtual providers to increase competition in the sector. Local news outlet adds that one MNO, China Unicom says that the MVNOs using its network had signed up around 550,000 subscribers, compared to 180,000 at the end of July.

In related news, China Unicom has revealed that it intends to deploy 330,000 Frequency Division Duplex Long Term Evolution (FDD-LTE) base stations by the end of the year to give it continuous 4G coverage in most urban areas. A further 180,000 sites are set to be deployed in 2015, in an effort to catch up with China Mobile, which has rolled out more than 600,000 base stations enabled with competing home-grown technology Time Division (TD)-LTE. Meanwhile, the cellco also intends to continue extending 3G coverage, and aims to have a total of 730,000 base stations enabled with W-CDMA 3G technology by the end of 2015.