Technology

China reveals ambitious broadband plan

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Image caption The Chinese government announced a round of investment in broadband infrastructure

China is to accelerate the development of its high-speed broadband network to raise speeds but cut prices, its State Council has said.

Fewer than half of the country's population has internet access and those who do can often experience slow connections.

The country's premier also urged telecoms companies to cut fees, including data roaming charges.

It was not revealed how much money would be invested.

Besides the government investment, Premier Li Keqiang also urged telecoms companies to cut their prices and up their speeds, according to China's cabinet the State Council.

He also said they should cut data roaming charges for Chinese tourists, although he acknowledged that it was ultimately for the market to decide.

He did, however, announce a round of investment infrastructure improvements to the same end.

"China has more cell-phone users than any other country, but its internet service speed ranks below 80th in the world due to underdeveloped information infrastructure," the premier said, according to a release from the State Council.

He added that "speeding up the construction of information infrastructure will boost investment and support" in China, as well as helping "mass innovation".

'Competition'

Telecoms firms should make rapid moves to cut prices and increase urban broadband speeds by around 40%, according to Mr Li.

China's investment in broadband could benefit global network equipment makers such as Ericsson and Nokia Oyj's Alcatel-Lucent, as well as home-grown players like Huawei Technologies and ZTE.

Mr Li did not say how much investment would be needed, but officials have previously earmarked around 2tn yuan ($322bn, £204bn) to improve China's broadband infrastructure by 2020.

China's internet penetration rate was only 47.9% last year, with connectivity especially low in smaller cities and rural areas. This compares with about 75% of people in the United States. In the UK, 73% of households have broadband access, Ofcom said in December 2014.

The Chinese cabinet's statement added that the nation would look to open up the telecoms market and encourage increased competition, including through expanding a pilot scheme for broadband services this year.

"There is still not enough competition, which has led to telecoms fees being relatively high while there is still a lot of room to improve the quality of service," the statement said, citing an official at China's official State Information Centre.

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