BEIJING - China on Wednesday handed out the first group of Internet map service licenses to 31 Chinese and joint-venture operators, after authorities tightened market access amid worries that booming Internet map services might undermine state security.
The 31 operators, including a national-level map publisher, several map service providers affiliated with major Chinese portals such as Baidu.com and Sina.com, and nearly a dozen state-owned local research institute or mapping bureaus, obtained a class-A license from the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping.
Operators who obtain a class-A license will be allowed to conduct services including map searching and locations, marking geographic information, downloading and copying of maps, and map transmissions and quotations. Class-B licenses will restrict companies to offer services of map searching and locations, as well as geographic information marking.
All Internet map services providers will have to apply for a license, while those operating without the license will be prosecuted in China in accordance with the law, said an official from the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping, who required anonymity.
The official did not elaborate on the deadline for license applications.
Foreign-owned or foreign-invested Internet firms can apply for the license in the capacity of joint ventures or through cooperation with Chinese businesses, according to the official.
Nokia Alliance Internet Services Company Limited, a joint venture between Nokia and New Alliance, which is part of the Shanghai Alliance Investment Limited, is among the businesses that have obtained a class-A license.