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Price dispute leads to 'line' woe on Metro

THERE are more "signal problems" on Shanghai's newly opened second phase of Line 8, but this time it involves a price dispute between city mobile phone carriers and the Metro operator.

Consequently, rail commuters on the line are suffering weak or non-existent reception on their phones.

During the two weeks before the opening of the second phase of Line 8 on July 5, passengers were hit by a series of operational problems, mostly intermittent breakdowns blamed on signal testing to fine-tune the system in preparation for the new phase.

Now trains are running smoothly, but phone lines aren't. The Metro operator and the phone firms are blaming each other.

Network update

A Metro management official told Shanghai Daily yesterday that it had not fully opened its cable equipment that supported mobile phone services on the second phase of Line 8 because it was in dispute with the telecom carriers over pricing.

Shanghai Shentong Metro Group said it had adopted the faster 3G network, as promoted by the city, and consequently there had been an increase in service charges.

While the Metro firm said it had made "a huge investment" in constructing the higher-technology cable system, the carriers described the new rental prices as "unreasonable."

The city branches of China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom said yesterday the signals were unavailable in some Metro stations on the new stretch of Line 8.

Alex Liu is one commuter caught in the crossfire. The office worker said that while he was talking with his boss on his mobile phone on the second phase of Line 8 last week, the call cut out when the train reached a station.

Pressure felt

"Luckily, my boss didn't blame me," Liu said.

Including both phases, there are nearly 300,000 commuters daily on Line 8.

"We feel pressure from the Metro line operator because the price of rent for base stations is unacceptable," a Shanghai Unicom official, who wanted to remain anonymous, said yesterday.

The carriers said they had to pay 1.6 million yuan (US$234,168) for each base station built on Metro lines and an additional 400,000 yuan annually in maintenance fees. That meant, carriers said, that they had to pay a total of 100 million yuan to cover all Metro lines.

A management official with the Metro operator yesterday described the charges as fair compared with counterpart cities in China.

The Shanghai Communications Administration, the regulator of local carriers, said yesterday it would help in negotiations with the Metro operator.

The three mobile carriers will invest a total of 77 billion yuan in Shanghai to build 3G networks and infrastructure for the 2010 World Expo.


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