(Yicai Global) Aug. 14 -- China Unicom, one of the country's big three state-owned carriers, has slashed its international roaming fees, on average nearly halving how much it costs to surf the mobile web overseas as the central government looks to keep prices down.
The Beijing-based firm, officially China United Network Telecommunications, has cut data prices by an average of 46 percent across 143 countries and regions, with the biggest snips taking 97 percent off previous prices, Shanghai Securities News reported. International dialing costs in 18 countries and regions have fallen by a mean of 44 percent, with the largest discounts reaching 79 percent.
The move comes just two months after rival China Telecom announced it would lower its international data fees in 176 countries and regions, offering unlimited data in packages priced at CNY25 (USD3.6), CNY55 and CNY85. China Unicom's new data and call prices will come down to as low as CNY3 a minute.
China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has been pushing telcos into reducing prices and optimizing data speeds as the nation gears up to roll out commercial 5G networks next year. Domestic long-distance charges for voice calls were canned last year and as of July, operators have had to scrap additional fees levied when customers use data outside of the province where their SIM card was registered.
The third major carrier, China Mobile, posted a 4.7 percent annual profit gain for the first half in its financial report last week. It managed to acquire more than 27 million new customers but saw a reduction in average revenue per user, which slipped 6.6 percent to CNY52. Chairman Shang Bing blamed the decline on unlimited data plans, the removal of provincial roaming charges and the use of dual-SIM handsets.
China Unicom is scheduled to release its second-quarter financials tomorrow. Analysts with CNN expect it to report earnings per share at HKD0.19 (2.4 cents), more than double the figure for the same period a year earlier and around 19 percent higher than reported EPS in the first quarter.
Editor: James Boynton