Outbound data roaming: blue sea market for virtual network operators for their overseas expansion

Each year more than 100 million Chinese travel abroad for business or vacation, and the number is expected to grow year by year. In this connection, many Chinese virtual network operators are competing to expand their business to the international communications market. Snail Mobile started to release international SIM cards to outbound Chinese travelers in June; 263Mobile cooperated with both Chinese and foreign telecom operators and terminal vendors to provide data roaming services to Chinese travelers. Sharing Mobile announced at the end of March that it will acquire Nigeria’s telecom operator GiCell and aims to export its telecom technology.

The virtual telecom network sector saw a rapid growth in the last couple of years since China allowed private investments into its mobile telecom sector. At the end of May 2016, virtual network operators in China saw 3.1 million users. Despite this huge user base, most Chinese virtual network operators have been losing money and are hence, eager to seek profits from other markets. The internal telecommunications market is a blue sea highly sought after by these telecom operators due to its broader profit margin and is set to embrace a boom in the future.

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