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Tuesday, September 25, 2001, updated at 10:53(GMT+8)

Railcom Ready for Rival

Real competition in China's fixed-line telecom sector began on Sunday with upstart China Railcom's network finally being linked to that of industry leader China Telecom.

As a result, fixed-line users can save 15 per cent on long-distance and 10 per cent on local calls thanks to a promotion by China Railcom aimed at snaring away China Telecom's customers.

Railcom's long-distance service will be made available to customers by the end of October.

China Railcom, the country's second biggest fixed-line carrier, now has access to all of China Telecom's network capabilities. That includes Beijing Telecom, the hold-out of local carriers and the most critical because it is the gateway of domestic callers to overseas phone networks.

The move is a milestone for phone service in China and effectively breaks up China Telecom's monopoly.

China Railcom's network now can handle 12 million users, although the carrier only has 2 million who are presently near the railways along which China Railcom's own networks run, China Railcom spokesman Dong Binfeng said.

The company has attracted telecom customers in 52 cities in 16 provinces, he said.

That pales in comparison to China Telecom, which boasts more than 160 million fixed-line users.

China Railcom officials say they are aiming to grab between 5 and 10 per cent of the market within five years.

Industry watchers think that may be overly ambitious if China Railcom does not introduce more services.

At present, China Railcom's chief means of attracting China Telecom customers is to offer the rate discounts on long-distance and local calls, Dong said.

By the end of October, customers of both networks will easily be able to use the other's network for long-distance service. China Telecom users will dial 068 before the number for China Railcom's service, while China Railcom clients can dial 190 before the number to use China Telecom's service.

China Railcom also hopes to make a dent in China Telecom's dominance of public phones. The first China Railcom pay phones will become operational at the Beijing Railway Station, a move that is expected to be followed by the placement of 10,000 public phones in nine cities by year's end, Dong said.

Rumours continue to swirl around a possible China Telecom split that might make the enormous corporation more efficient.

The split also could further break up the monopoly. The final decision on that is awaited from the State Development Planning Commission and the Office for Restructuring the Economic System under the State Council.

Railcom is Calling, Finally

China Railcom, the country's second biggest fixed-line telecom carrier, has started operation in 14 provinces and municipalities after signing agreements with China Telecom local branches. This new fixed-line operator scheduled to start nationwide operation in July, but the negotiation for network interconnection with the China Telecom delayed Railcom's operation.

Source: China Daily

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Real competition in China's fixed-line telecom sector began on Sunday with upstart China Railcom's network finally being linked to that of industry leader China Telecom.

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