China Unicom (Beijing, P.R.C.) and China Telecom (Beijing, P.R.C.), the country's second and third largest telecom operators, have asked Chinese regulators to halt an antimonopoly probe and will work towards lowering internet access charges over coming years, they said on Friday.
In November, the National Development and Re-form Commission, China's top state planner, said it was investigating the carriers for monopoly violations, the first such probe since it implemented its antimonopoly law in 2008.
"The company has submitted to the relevant regulatory authorities a proposal for enhancement initiatives and application for suspension of investigation," China Telecom said in a filing on the Hong Kong stock exchange. China Unicom issued a similarly worded statement.
China has the most Internet users globally, totaling 485 million by mid-2011, but Internet speeds are slow, with the average broadband speeds ranking 71th globally while expenses are several times more than mature markets, state media said.
China Unicom and Telecom together account for 90% of the country's broadband business, with smaller local operators such as Great Wall Broadband Network (Sheznhen, P.R.C.) and China Tietong Telecom made up the rest.
Some smaller players, such as Tietong, are charged relatively high fees when they connect to the Unicom and Telecom backbones for some parts of the networks, resulting in high internet charges for end-users.
China Telecom said on Friday it will promptly carry out capacity expansion with other backbone network operators, such as China Unicom and China Tietong, to reduce the price for direct interconnection with China Tietong.
It will also boost its optic fiber and broadband access speeds to help lower the bandwidth unit price of end-users' internet access, both companies said.
China Telecom aimed to reduce the bandwidth unit price by about 35% within five years, it added in the statement.
(Reporting by Lee Chyen Yee; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters)