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December 12, 2009

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Cell-phone long-distance fees falling in January

MOBILE phone long-distance charges will be simplified and reduced next year with the scrapping of roaming and local fees, China's regulators said yesterday.

It's the latest move to trim the fee structure and protect consumer rights in China, the world's No. 1 mobile phone market, analysts said.

Starting January 1, the upper price of the long-distance call should not exceed 0.60 yuan (9 US cents) a minute, according to the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

"When cell-phone users dial domestic long-distance calls, local communication fees and long-distance fees charged under the current policy will be combined to a long-distance fee only," the ministry said in a statement.

At present, callers pay both local and long-distance fees when making domestic long-distance calls.

For example, a Shanghai Mobile subscriber has to pay about 0.8 yuan a minute to call Beijing. The fee will be reduced by 25 percent to 0.6 yuan next year.

The policy will affect China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, which have a total of 700 million handset users.

Shares of Hong Kong-listed China Mobile dropped 1.05 percent to close at 70.35 Hong Kong dollars (US$9), with smaller rivals China Unicom and China Telecom both losing 0.6 percent, compared with the Hang Seng Index gain of 0.93 percent yesterday.

Analysts said the effects should be relatively small because the firms have already restructured their tariffs.

Shanghai Mobile said its 17951 package allows customers to pay 0.2 yuan each minute for a long-distance call, only one-third of the upper price, if they agree to pay 1 yuan each month.

The telecommunications industry change follows cost cuts in roaming and fixed-line phone services.



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