Scrap­ping roam­ing fees is the first step to­ward a more dig­i­tized so­ci­ety


China Mo­bile Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Corp, China United Net­work Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Group Co and China Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Corp — an­nounced on Thurs­day their de­ci­sion to scrap do­mes­tic long-dis­tance and roam­ing charges start­ing Sept 1. Thep­a­ com­mented on Sat­ur­day:

Fi­nally, the days of long-dis­tance, roam­ing charges will be gone for good. How­ever, that the lon­gan­tic­i­pated move is due to take ef­fect a month ahead of the dead­line set by the State Coun­cil, China’s Cab­i­net, raises the ques­tion about whether the three flag­ship providers would have can­celed them had it not been for Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang’s push.

In the Gov­ern­ment Work Re­port he de­liv­ered in March, Li de­manded the can­cel­la­tion of the years­long charg­ing prac­tice as part of gov­ern­ment’s move to build a stronger in­ter­net in­dus­try. The next day, the three tele­com giants said that they would make it hap­pen start­ing Oct 1.

Mov­ing the can­cel­la­tion date a month ear­lier does not re­quire ex­tra tech­nol­ogy, and the ques­tion

of whether charg­ing roam­ing fees still makes senses should have been an­swered in this way years ago.

The ac­tual roam­ing cost for a cell­phone is just one cent a year. In the United States, in­ter­state calls do not cost any­thing as long as the caller and re­ceiver are with the same tele­com car­rier. Providers in the Euro­pean Union have even stopped charg­ing roam­ing fees within the bloc, adding weight to the fact that roam­ing ser­vices are ba­si­cally cost­less.

It is a re­lief that Chi­nese tele­com com­pa­nies are catch­ing up in this re­gard. But they still have a lot more to do. Cell­phone users rely more on un­lim­ited ac­cess to in­ter­net rather than af­ford­able calls. The end of 23-year-long roam­ing charges is just the first step in the pur­suit of a more dig­i­tized so­ci­ety.

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