A month after China’s Premier Li Keqiang criticised the mobile internet for being expensive and slow, the State Council, the country’s cabinet, has called on telecoms operators to boost internet speeds by 40 per cent, expand broadband access in rural areas and cut prices by the end of the year.
“A lot of people ask where they can find WiFi, because mobile traffic charges are too high,” Li told an audience of entrepreneurs and economists in Beijing in April.
The council is pushing for an accelerated buildout of the country’s high-speed optical and broadband networks in the countryside to improve access in 14,000 villages by the end of this year, Xinhua reported.
It said operators need to publish their plans on how to increase speeds by at least 40 per cent and reduce prices. It also has called for stricter monitoring of broadband services and charges to protect consumers.
Director of the Communication Development Department of MIIT (Ministry of Industry and Information Technology), Wen Ku, said that to reach these goals the MIIT will now allow private firms to invest to upgrade existing infrastructure and strengthen the co-construction and sharing of network facilities, C114.net reported.
The idea is that a more open market with fair competition will be able to attract more than 100 private ISPs, which will be able to upgrade rural areas.
Xinhua quoted Ning Jiajun, director of the Experts Committee of the State Information Centre, as saying: “Three telecoms giants are not enough competition and are a direct cause of current high charges for unsatisfactory services.”
He said incentives for more private investment will be necessary to open up the telecoms market. “Removing institutional obstacles and giving full play to market [forces] are the only ways to protect consumers and push forward the Internet Plus strategy,” Ning said.
The premier in March introduced the Internet Plus concept, which integrates the internet and traditional industries through online platforms and is expected to be a new engine for growth.
Li has complained that China’s broadband speed is ranked only 80th globally. China’s average internet connection speed was 3.4Mb/s last year, putting it 82nd globally. The average internet connection speed globally was 4.5Mb/s, according to Akamai Technologies.
But analysts have countered that average mobile connection speeds in large and medium-sized cities are no slower than in the US and Western Europe, but slow 4G services in small towns and rural areas have dragged down the country’s overall speed.