The Chinese government has issued licenses (translation) to 11 companies looking to offer mobile services via MVNO arrangements with incumbents China Mobile (CHL -0.2%), China Unicom (CHU -0.7%), and China Telecom (CHA). Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is among the companies receiving a license.
Though the incumbents will receive service fees from MVNOs, the licenses set the stage for China's mobile services market to see its first major jolt of new competition in years. The market's last major shakeup arguably happened in '08, when China Telecom (originally focused on wireline services) struck a deal to purchase China Unicom's 2G CDMA network.
The licenses arrive shortly after the Chinese government slashed the interconnection fees China Unicom and Telecom have to pay China Mobile (by far the market's biggest player). All three carriers have seen their voice/text revenues pressured by the rise of mobile messaging services, particularly Tencent's WeChat.