China plans number portability trials

In a move sure to put a dent in China Mobile's subscriber-base, the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is trialling number portability in two regions.

The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced that number portability trials will be conducted in Tianjin and Shenzhen.

The ban on number portability is suspected to be a major reason why China Mobile maintains such a stranglehold on the country's telecommunications market - customers are reluctant to switch and lose their existing phone numbers.

And rumours abound that the Chinese government is considering more regulations aimed at limiting this stranglehold.

According to the Oriental Morning Post, the government is drafting regulation designed to restrict China Mobile's ability to operate in the broadband service market.

The regulation would restrict the company to developing broadband services from a single division.

China Mobile's chief competitor, China Telecom, is expected to benefit the most from regulation limiting the former company's growth.

Representatives from China Telecom told the Financial Times last month that the company was anticipating more such regulations to come out of Beijing in the near future.

One legislative change rumoured to be under discussion is the possibility of introducing regulation mandating the sharing of infrastructural resources between telecomms.

China Mobile captures more than 70% of the wireless market, but is facing strict competition from its chief rivals in the sector.

The company has been further hindered by a decision to use the TD-SCDMA standard for China's upcoming 3G network, a standard which by the company's own admission is 'a few years behind' the de-facto international standard chosen by its competitors.

And Dow Jones is reporting that US trade officials are engaged in high-level talks with the Chinese this week, seeking an easement of foreign ownership restrictions for the telecommunications sector.