China to boost rural telephone coverage

BEIJING (03/03/2004) - China's Ministry of Information Industry (MII) earlier this year launched the Rural Communications Universal Services initiative, an effort to increase the availability of telephone services in rural China by combining the resources of the country's six telecommunications operators: China Telecommunications Corp. (China Telecom), China Netcom Corp., China Mobile Communications Corp., China United Telecommunications Corp. (China Unicom), China Satellite Communications Corp. (China Satcom), and China Railway Communications Co. Ltd. (China Railcom).

According to MII, China has the world's largest telecommunications network and the greatest number of telephone users. However, there is a dramatic difference between the telephone penetration rates of the country's urban and rural areas. At the end of 2003, the country's urban areas had a telephone penetration rate of 31.45 telephones per 100 persons while rural areas had 18 telephones per 100 persons, according to the National Statistics Bureau of China .

To speed up the development of rural communications services, the MII has implemented a universal services compensation policy and mapped out plans to boost rural telephone coverage

Under the framework of the program, the six operators will share the responsibility of extending telephone coverage to more than 40,000 villages by 2005.

The project is currently being carried out on a trial basis with each operator taking responsibility for a specific province or autonomous region that has been targeted under MII's direction. China Telecom is responsible for Shanxi province, China Netcom for Inner Mongolia autonomous region, China Mobile for Sichuan province, China Unicom for Guangxi autonomous region, China Satcom for Sichuan province, and China Railcom for Henan province.

If the project proceeds on schedule it will be completed within one year, MII said.

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