China Mobile launches MVNO, ropes in EE as partner

Despite not having access to UK spectrum, China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile network operator by subscribers, has decided to launch in the UK as an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) using the CMLink brand.

EE will be China Mobile's launch partner for the service, with Transtel rumoured to be the designated MVNE. CMLink is a PAYG (pay as you go) offer with free calls and texts to CMLink and China Mobile users.

Rates for calls to other numbers and texts are 8p per minute/per text with 5p per MP. Monthly packages will also be available, with an £18 deal offering unlimited texts, 2000 minutes and 9GB allowance (which can increase to 27GB after 40 months).

Dr Li Feng, CEO of China Mobile International (CMI), said that the launch, the company's first MVNO offering in Europe, will target both the Chinese diaspora in the UK and the tens of thousands of Chinese tourists that visit the UK every year.

Alex Tempest, managing director of fixed, wholesale and MVNO sales at BT, added that the company was willing to support China Mobile's "innovative" approach.

Techradar Pro exclusively suggested today's launch back in November after invites for the official launch were sent out to British media.

How will the market react?

With nearly 900 million subscribers and revenues that significantly outstrip its competitors, China Mobile is a true giant to be reckoned with.

But Virgin Mobile and other existing MVNOs won't need to worry as CMLink's target audience does not overlap with theirs - at least not yet for the momemt.

Today's launch could be considered as an extension to the company's national network, rather than an attempt to compete local rivals.

Keep an eye on their auto-renewing monthly packs offer though, which are reasonably priced and could prove to be attractive to some niche verticals.

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.