Private mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) in China are expected to start operations in early 2014, said a NetEase report on Friday, citing people close to the matter.
The rollout is likely to take place once the country's largest telco, China Mobile, completes its screening of applicants in December, following reports that rival telcos China Unicom and China Telecom had finished their selection process.
An MVNO provides services or resells network services from other telecom suppliers as it does not own the telecom infrastructure. In China, telecom infrastructure is primarily dominated by the "big three" telcos.
In May, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) required telecom operators in China to come up with plans in detail and reach deals with at least two private companies. The move was aimed at attracting more investments and competition in the industry.
By the end of October, China Unicom and China Telecom each completed nomination of 14 companies and 16 companies respectively, and filed their candidate lists to MIIT. Reports said there were nine companies appearing in both lists submitted by China Unicom and China Telecom.
Candidates so far include appliances retailers such as Gome and Suning, online retailer Jingdong Mall, as well as e-commerce giant Alibaba, 21st Century Business Herald reported, which indicated names of eight companies among the lists. Market rumors are also expecting Tencent to become one of the first to obtain such a license.
China Mobile, the market leading player in China, has been putting off its decision as it is likely to believe cooperating with a MVNO will not be conducive to its business.