Chinese mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) signed up around 5.42 million users by the end of March this year, a substantial improvement from two million at end-2014, C114 reports. Sector regulator the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) began issuing MVNO licences in late 2013 as part of a two-year trial to assess the potential impact MVNOs could have on competition in the sector, predicting that virtual providers would represent around 50 million subscribers by the end of the trial in December 2015. To-date 21 of the 42 firms issued with MVNO licences by MIIT have launched operations, with more expected to begin offering services in H2 2015.
Commenting on the progress of the trial, the vice president of the China Association of Communication Enterprises (CACE), Miao Jianhua noted that the pilot resale business programme had made ‘positive advances,’ particularly in the provision of personalised services, but added that there have been many complaints from users regarding quality of service (QoS).
The nascent industry has been plagued with problems, however, with most MVNOs blaming the nation’s trio of mobile network operators (MNOs) for setting high wholesale prices whilst simultaneously cutting tariffs. The average monthly ARPU for MVNO customers was just CNY13 (USD2.12), Mr Jianhua said, with that figure falling to less than CNY10 per month if the small number of high-value enterprise customers are excluded. According to the official, there would be ‘no profit’ on ARPU of less than CNY10 per month.