In December last year, the Chinese government issued what is known as ‘mobile virtual network operator’ licenses to HiChina, a subsidiary of e-commerce giant Alibaba, as well as its rival JD.com, allowing them to resell mobile telecom services.
This means they get to lease mobile services from the three state-run major carriers — China Telecom, China Unicom and China Mobile — but offer their own independent packages with data and discounts for mobile devices that may differ from what is on the market right now.
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Today Alibaba announced that it will start providing its telecom services, including 3G data and voice calls, in June. It is already working with the three telecom providers, and users can start registering with Alibaba in May for mobile phone numbers starting with “170.”
Though details are scarce at the moment, Alibaba says it is aiming to come up with packages and services that give users “maximum flexibility” and transparency when it comes to billing and choosing plans.
The telecom packages will be sold through Alibaba’s e-commerce sites, Taobao Marketplace and Tmall.com, and can be paid for via its payment service Alipay.
JD.com has previously voiced its ambition to become China’s fourth-largest mobile carrier within five years — though Alibaba hasn’t been so forthright, tying its telecom services in to all its current platforms could see it reach a wide audience and help it to gain traction rapidly.
Alibaba is planning an IPO that could raise as much as $15 billion at a valuation north of $150 billion. Adding mobile phone services to its e-commerce portfolio helps to widen its revenue sources.
Headline image via Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images