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:
- Someone has to pay the long distance fee (not neccessarily the caller)
- 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.
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.