China Mobile, the country’s largest operator and 4G leader, has called on the country’s regulator to make low-frequency spectrum available in rural areas to help narrow the digital gap between cities and the countryside.

Jiang Yuan, a VP at the company’s design institute, said the operator has expanded its coverage in both urban and rural areas with nearly one million 4G base stations deployed, but added that “more needs to be done to deliver better mobile broadband services in rural areas,” reported.

China Mobile recently said its 4G connection base increased by 100 million in the first half of the year to almost 190 million.

He said China Mobile needs to not only apply advanced network technologies and more rational network architectures to improve network efficiency, but also consider using low-frequency bands. quoted Jiang as saying: “There’s no low-frequency band resources in our existing 4G network, and a huge gap still exists in the network coverage in rural areas. We hope the relevant regulatory authorities could release low-frequency band resources as soon as possible and issue rural regional licences.”

The government complained in April that the country’s broadband networks were expensive and slow. After the telecoms regulator pledged to push industry players to reduce costs and improve speeds, the country’s three mobile operators committed in May to cutting data prices by 20-40 per cent, as well as improving network speeds.

He did not mention the specific bands China Mobile wanted released.

Telecoms researcher Xiang Ligang noted that the average mobile connection speeds in large and medium-sized cities in China are no slower than in the US and Western Europe, but that slow 4G services in small towns and rural areas have dragged down the country’s overall speed.

According to Akamai Technologies, 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.