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Scrapping roaming fees is the first step toward a more digitized society

China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-31 07:31

Scrapping roaming fees is the first step toward a more digitized society

Company logos of China Unicom are displayed at a news conference during the company's announcement of its annual results in Hong Kong, China, March 16, 2016.[Photo/Agencies]

CHINA'S THREE MAJOR TELECOM CARRIERS-China Mobile Communications Corp, China United Network Communications Group Co and China Telecommunications Corp-announced on Thursday their decision to scrap domestic long-distance and roaming charges starting Sept 1. Thepaper.cn commented on Saturday:

Finally, the days of long-distance, roaming charges will be gone for good. However, that the long-anticipated move is due to take effect a month ahead of the deadline set by the State Council, China's Cabinet, raises the question about whether the three flagship providers would have canceled them had it not been for Premier Li Keqiang's push.

In the Government Work Report he delivered in March, Li demanded the cancellation of the yearslong charging practice as part of government's move to build a stronger internet industry. The next day, the three telecom giants said that they would make it happen starting Oct 1.

Moving the cancellation date a month earlier does not require extra technology, and the question of whether charging roaming fees still makes senses should have been answered in this way years ago.

The actual roaming cost for a cellphone is just one cent a year. In the United States, interstate calls do not cost anything as long as the caller and receiver are with the same telecom carrier. Providers in the European Union have even stopped charging roaming fees within the bloc, adding weight to the fact that roaming services are basically costless.

It is a relief that Chinese telecom companies are catching up in this regard. But they still have a lot more to do. Cellphone users rely more on unlimited access to internet rather than affordable calls. The end of 23-year-long roaming charges is just the first step in the pursuit of a more digitized society.

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