China Mobile Competition Could Heat Up

China’s government has begun testing a policy allow mobile subscribers to switch carriers without changing their phone numbers in two locations, the eastern coastal metropolis of Tianjin and the southern island province of Hainan–-potentially bringing the long-anticipated move toward full number portability closer to reality and adding to mounting competition for telecommunications giant China Mobile.

State-owned China Mobile, which had about 570 million subscriber accounts as of September, has long been China’s preferred carrier. But the company’s subscriber growth has slowed as the government has rolled out efforts to restructure the industry and make it more competitive.

The most recent move may provide a boost for China’s two other carriers, which are also state-owned: China Unicom, which had about 160 million subscriber accounts as of September, and China Telecom, which had about 86 million mobile subscriber accounts as of October. China Unicom has been hoping to make the most of some competitive advantages, including its license to operate a mobile network using WCDMA third-generation technology, which is compatible with in-demand handsets like Apple’s iPhone.

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