China Mobile slashes international roaming rates by 80 percent

Taking a cue from China Unicom and China Telecom, China Mobile, China’s largest wireless carrier, has slashed its international roaming rates by almost 80 percent, to boost roaming usage outside the country.

According to an email statement released by the company, roaming rates for 38 countries that include popular destinations for Chinese travelers such as the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Singapore and Australia will be slashed, to help stimulate network usage, and retain mid to high-end customers.

This latest rate cut is important as it is the fourth time since 2010 that China Mobile has reduced international roaming rates, pointing to stiff competition that the operator has been facing recently. The most recent rate cut was in May, when the carrier also slashed domestic call rates by almost 15 percent.

The operator which reported 616.8 million subscribers as of June 2011, said that it was able to negotiate cheaper roaming deals for its users with international operators due to the increasing number of Chinese citizens travelling abroad. This is the operator’s biggest roaming fee cut in 10 years.

China Unicom, the country’s number two operator after China Mobile, introduced its phone call back program, called **100 Program in May, which assigns local land line phone numbers to mobile customers travelling abroad, and then offers low-cost calls by means of a company computer in China calling the provided landline number back over less-expensive land lines for long-distance calls. This has helped the operator cut its roaming rates by as much as 90 percent.

China Telecom, the nation’s smallest carrier in terms of subscriber numbers, cut international roaming charges in 17 countries and regions by as much as 80 percent at the end of 2010. However, greenfield operators in China are unlikely to follow suit in slashing international tariffs, as the negotiation cost with international operators will be too expensive.

China Unicom and China Telecom also score over China Mobile in terms of 3G penetration in China, as the Apple iPhone is not compatible with China Mobile’s 3G standard, and thus only works on the operator’s 2G network in China. However, China Mobile iPhone users can utilize the 3G WCDMA network in European countries, which will now prove more attractive with the lowest international roaming tariffs in China, on offer.

Subscribers using non-voice services on the network of Canada’s Rogers Communications on their travels are entitled to an 80 percent fee-reduction, while rate cuts for phone use in countries including the U.K., France, Germany and Italy exceed 50 percent, the Beijing-based carrier said in a statement. Calls rates between China and Singapore have been reduced by about 75 percent.


China is among many nations in the Asian subcontinent to have slashed international roaming rates recently.

In India, state-run operator BSNL recently introduced reduced rates of as low as Rs 1.20 per minute to international destinations like US, UK and China via VoIP on landline numbers. Idea Cellular also slashed international roaming rates for a limited period and Bharti Airtel, the country’s largest wireless operator by subscriber numbers introduced low-cost 3G video calling to international destinations for its customers in India. 

By Beryl M
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