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Chinese telcos scrap domestic roaming charges

All three major telecom operators in China scrapped the long-criticized domestic roaming charges from September 1.

Mobile phone calls between provinces in mainland China no longer accrue additional charges from September 1, after all three major Chinese telecom operators, China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom, scrapped domestic roaming fees.

The rule applies to all users automatically, according to a Sohu news report citing information from the three telecom operators, but roaming fees still occur when phone calls are made or received in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.

Domestic roaming charges had existed for decades in China as different mobile phone numbers are subject to administration of local telecom operators in over 30 provinces.

All 4G plans and some 3G plans offered by the telcos have already abolished the domestic roaming charges, and the complete repeal of the plan will result in notable profit loss for the operators.

For China Mobile, the largest telecom operator in the country, scrapping domestic roaming fees entirely will result in losses of 16 billion yuan ($2.4 billion) in revenue for a year, according to the report.

The report also pointed out that voice calls are a declining trend in China, with total voice call hours sliding 4.7 percent during the first seven months this year. Data plan usage is surging in China, however, with an average user in China consuming 1,7GB of data in July, up 123.5 percent from the same period last year.

Data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology shows that total mobile phone numbers in use reached 1.37 billion in China in July 2017, among which 1.06 billion were using either 3G and 4G networks and about 300 million were using 2G.