Xiaomi plans 'mini-mi' mobile network

Chinese mobe vendor to Cupertino: 'You snooze, you lose'

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China’s leading phone maker plans to capitalise on its success flogging mobes to the masses by operating its own-brand mobile network.

Xiaomi has launched Mi Mobile, a wireless MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) that will compete against China’s stodgy state-owned mobile carriers.

According to Reuters, the company is keeping things simple for now, offering just two low-cost pre-paid plans for voice and data. A 3GB data bundle costs around US$10 while voice calls work out at less than 2 cents a minute. Customers will be able to buy these services through the company’s online store.

It’s a bold move. To date MVNOs have failed to fire in China where the market is dominated state-owned carriers. Xiaomi is banking on its brand’s high visibility to get punters through the door. Chinese regulators are keen to use MVNOs to inject much-needed competition into the nation’s mobile market.

MVNOs like Mi Mobile don’t built cell towers and other physical infrastructure. Instead they buy network capacity from existing carriers, bundling their own services and using their own brands and marketing.

Mi Mobile will use the China Unicom and China Telecom networks.

Xiaomi isn’t the only phone maker looking at running its own network. Google, strictly-speaking not a phone maker but then there is Android, recently said it plans a US-based MVNO called Fi that will use the Sprint and T-Mobile networks.

Meanwhile there have been reports Apple is planning an MVNO, although, as usual, the fruity one is saying nothing. ®

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