How China Mobile Fee are Charged

Notice: This article only applies to China Mobile users. I didn’t research about Unicom charging model, but it should be very similar.

Yes. I Agree it is Complicated

To be honest, I don’t know how the mobile fee is charged till now. As one reader commented (I cannot find the post about three days ago), it is too difficult to calculate how much it costs since it is not a flat rate. You have to put where you are, where your base city are, whether you are calling or receiving call into consideration. If you put the different discount plan into the calculation, it is almost impossible for you to clearly know how much you are paying. Even people in China Mobile may not understand the whole thing. Maybe all those people who are clearly aware of how it works are not the target customer of either China Mobile or China Unicom: they are so called low-end customers. If someone spend more than 800 RMB on mobile every month, will he/she bother to spend time to understand it? :-D

Anyway, I finally got some idea with the help of this page (Chinese page). Let me try to explain it.

Component of Calling Fee

There are two rules to remember:

  1. Someone has to pay the long distance fee (not neccessarily the caller)
  2. They charge according to the REAL route a call goes

So there are three types of fees: Local call, Long distance call (familiar with these terms? They are how fee is charged by fixed-line telephone), AND roaming fee.

I don’t know why the roaming fee is charged. I guess it is for the usage of the infrustructure of the other city, other than the home city.

When the Mobile is not Roaming

The simplest senario is, the mobile is at its home city (you can tell the home city of a mobile from its phone number), when it calls other mobile, or fixed line telephone, the caller has to pay either local call fee only or local call + long distance call, depending on where the destination is. I tend to guess that local call fee is the fee you pay for the wireless connection between your mobile to the basestation and long distance fee is paying for the fixed-line between your base station to the destination.

If you receive calls, no matter who calls, even from other countries, you only have to pay the local call fee – the segment from the base station and your mobile.

It is under hot discussion about whether this two-way charging mobile is reasonable. The discussion has been undergoing for more than three years, I remember. However, up to now, they are still charging both caller and receiver.

If the Mobile is Roaming

It became very complicated.

If you are placing local (the place you are visiting) calls (no matter it is local fixed-line telephone, or local mobile), you pay the roaming fee. No long distance fee is involved, since your mobile directly connects to the local mobile base station and goes to the destination. As I guessed, the roaming fee is the usage fee to use a different base station infrustructure.

If you are placing non-local calls, you are paying for roaming fee + long distance fee (from the visiting city to the desination).

For example, my mobile’s home city is Shanghai. If I travel to Beijing and I call local calls, I only pay roaming fee. If I call a number in Chengdu, I pay for roaming fee + the long distance fee from Bejiing to Chengdu.

If you receive calls in your visiting city, depends on who calls, the fee varies greatly.

If local (the visiting city) mobile or telephone is calling you, you pay the roaming fee.

If non-local mobile or telephoen is calling you, according to how the signal goes, the call will first by transfered to your home city (Shanghai for me), and they transfered to you at your roaming city. You have to pay both roaming fee and the long distance fee for this call.

Excercise Time

Let’s do some excercise (to help me understand it too). Here are some background information for thsi excercise: Jian Shuo Wang owns a mobile with home city Shanghai. Eric owns a mobile with home city in Beijing.

  • I am in Shanghai, Eric is in Beijing and I call Eric:
      I pay for local fee + long distance fee. Eric pays for local fee.
  • I travel to Beijing and I call Eric:
      I pay the roaming fee and he pays the local fee.
  • I travel to Beijing and Eric uses his China Mobile (the company) mobile phone to call me.
      By theory, Eric should be paying long distance fee to Shanghai and I pay the roaming fee + long distance fee from Shanghai to Beijing, but China Mobile is running a program to waive the long distance fee for both party. So Eric pays only pays the local fee and I pay the roaming fee.
  • Eric travels to Guangzhou and I travel to Beijing. Eric calls me.
      Eric is paying for roaming fee + long distance fee from Guangzhou to Shanghai. I pay for roaming fee + long distance fee from Shanghai to Beijing.
  • I travel to Beijing and Eric travel to Shanghai. I call Eric.
      I pays for roaming fee and Eric pays the roaming fee.

Ha. What a complicated homework to do. The last but the most important question is, how much is the local fee, roaming fee and the long distance fee? Well. It is another complicated calculation depends on which package you are using. This article may help: Difference Between Quanqiutong and Shenzhouxing.

P.S. Please help to correct me if there is any error in this article. I am trying to understand how it works but this is by no means the official answer. The number on your bill is the most official one.

20 thoughts on “How China Mobile Fee are Charged

  1. Ginn

    I suspect this is not true.

    “I travel to Beijing and Eric travel to Shanghai. I call Eric.

    I pays for roaming fee and Eric pays the roaming fee.”

    So you make a call from BeijingShanghai, but no one pays for long-distance fee.

  2. Karp

    Too complicate!

    In thailand,it’s use to be that way untill the second largest service provider desided to challange the pricing structure by charge only a small flat rate for all calls through out the country ( 1 yaun/min ), now that’s the standard charging.reciveing call was not charge at all.

    ( Thailand is a much smaller country any way )

    And they can offer a rate of 0.18 U.S.dollar per minute ( 1.4 yuan ) for mobile call from Bangkok to Shanghai (fixed line and mobile), i think that’s impressively cheap!.

  3. Kaili

    Thanks Jianshuo! This was an awesome explanation. I might print it out to study even. This means I may even start calling my Chinese friends who don’t have landlines! This is fantastic, I had totally misunderstood the way it worked. I don’t even have a cellphone in New Zealand, so it’s hard enough understanding it here, let alone in a country as big as China!!

  4. Jian Shuo Wang

    Ginn, “I travel to Beijing and Eric travel to Shanghai. I call Eric. I pays for roaming fee and Eric pays the roaming fee.” This is very interesting and special senario. It is tricky. However, it is true. I specially checked this with China Mobile that when both party roam, no long distance fee is involved. This is used as a special case in the charging model.

  5. bigbro

    No long distance charge is involved because Jian Shuo’s cell is, for the time, located in Beijing and dialing a Beijing number, that is a local connection, which is then roamed to Eric.

  6. Shanghai

    Tarifs China Mobile

    Pour diminuer les factures de China Mobile de l’ordre de 50 %, il faut souscrire à leur service JiaJia :

    Pour cela, envoyer le SMS suivant au 1861 : JJ39

    Bien clair ? Il suffit d’écrire JJ39

    Ensuite, faire envoi au numéro : 1861

    Quelques…

  7. Ralf Gutmann

    Dear Sirs,

    I have a general question which everybody answers differently.

    When I call to a mobil phone in China from our German net. Does the receiptant in China have to pay roaming fees ?

    Thank you for your answer

    Best Regards

    Ralf Gutmann

  8. Siven

    I bought that M-zone card about four months ago(in Shanghai), did registered under my friend ID(coz the time I forgot bring my own passport). I am going to Shanghai soon, don’t know how long this card could last, if I didn’t not recharge this card for a year, it’s still a validity sim card or not once recharge it again?

    Secondly, can I swap this phone card under my personal name? I could bring all my friend’s details and ID no and so on……

  9. Chris

    I found your helpful blog while looking up how China Mobile charges for its service. You may be interested to read that charges are to be caller only. BTW – in the UK only the caller pays. See the following from Forbes, quoting AFX:

    BEIJING (XFN-ASIA) – China is set to impose a caller-pays only policy for its two mobile telephone operators, the South China Morning Post reported, citing a source close to the Ministry of Information Industry.

    The system would allow the country’s more than 450 mln mobile phone users to enjoy cheaper services from as early as next month, the Hong Kong newspaper said.

    Now when a mobile call is made in China both the caller and the receiver must pay.

    The decision to adopt the caller-pays approach had already been made, the report said.

    ‘The new policy has been kept secret by both the regulator and the mobile operators,’ the report cited a ministry source as saying.

    It was not clear whether the two mobile providers, China Mobile (nyse: CHL – news – people ) and China Unicom (nyse: CHU – news – people ), would implement the policy immediately from Jan 1 or phase it in, the report added.

  10. Chris

    I found your helpful blog while looking up how China Mobile charges for its service. You may be interested to read that charges are to be caller only. BTW – in the UK only the caller pays. See the following from Forbes, quoting AFX:

    BEIJING (XFN-ASIA) – China is set to impose a caller-pays only policy for its two mobile telephone operators, the South China Morning Post reported, citing a source close to the Ministry of Information Industry.

    The system would allow the country’s more than 450 mln mobile phone users to enjoy cheaper services from as early as next month, the Hong Kong newspaper said.

    Now when a mobile call is made in China both the caller and the receiver must pay.

    The decision to adopt the caller-pays approach had already been made, the report said.

    ‘The new policy has been kept secret by both the regulator and the mobile operators,’ the report cited a ministry source as saying.

    It was not clear whether the two mobile providers, China Mobile (nyse: CHL – news – people ) and China Unicom (nyse: CHU – news – people ), would implement the policy immediately from Jan 1 or phase it in, the report added.

  11. pat

    I wonder if you can help me with this question? I am in the UK and I’d like to ring a mobile in Chengdu, (from a landline) but don’t want to risk the receiver paying charges. And I can’t check with the cellphone owner as the email is bounced back! I can use a telediscount number to make the call cheap for me using a landline.

    any thoughts?

  12. Jian Shuo Wang

    pat, what are you worrying about? Are you worrying about the money you pay or the money the receiver of the phone pay?

    The rule is simple. You pay whatever you need to pay to make the long distance phone call (just like you call a fixed line phone), and the receiver pays at the local phone call rate (sometime like 0.4 RMB per minute?).

  13. Lynne

    I have bought a china i phone clone and it is unlocked to any network, but how do I get internet access when it says gprs not supported.

    I have called my carrier here in Australia and they say that they cant help

  14. Jian Shuo Wang

    Did you check the frequency of the two countries? I am not sure if the phone you bought is compatible on frequency with Australia. 1900 Mhz, 1800 Mhz, or 900Mhz?

  15. Rakibul hoque

    I would like to know local rate of china mobile per minute and international rate local out going ?

  16. ninku

    Its totally making us dumbass..well when the foreigner like us had to pay for nothing…even i used ip card the balance diminished..what is this fuss all about??I am highly disgusted by the china mobile payment system..even u call u pay even if u dont the balance is getting lower.

  17. Super

    Hey,

    so as it stands at the moment if I call my friends local number in shanghai from my local number in Germany it actually costs them money to talk to me!!

    This is a crazy system. The receiver had nothing to do with the initiation of the call, maybe did not even want the call but as soon as they answer they are charged. China must be unique in the world as I have never heard of a charging system like this in any other country. The caller is responsible for the call and therefore should be the one responsible for the charge. Simply put “If I do not want to pay I do not make the call”. The receiver should not be burdened because people want to talk to them!!

    Anyway, my question: Is there any mobile operator in china that offers free received international calls? Also, does this charge also apply to landline companies in china?

    Thanks for the help

    Regards

    S.H.

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