China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has awarded over 40 MVNO licenses since 2013. Among the recipients, many service providers (e.g. telcos like YuanTel, Snail Mobile, or specialists like Hainan Airlines, Ping An Insurance, CMBC bank, or Youku Tudou - video sharing), retailers (from the big netcos like Alibaba - who launched 'Qinxin' last Summer - or JD.com, to mobile phone
retailers like D.Phone or FunTalk, to mobile service retailers like AiSiDi or Telling, to home appliance retailers like Suning or Gome), manufacturers (e.g. Lenovo, Hisense, Foxconn, or Xiaomi)...
As of August 2015, 26 of the licensees had launched their services, claiming over 10 million subscribers (up from 8.2 the previous month), including 1 for YuanTel. 9 M subs were on China Unicom, 1 M on China Telecom, 0.1 M on China Mobile, which was just starting in the game... and boasts about 820 M subs.
Xiaomi, who sold 60 M smartphones last year, launched "Mi Mobile" last week on China Telecom and China Unicom networks. Surprisingly for a manufacturer, they offer SIM-only services. This company is used to making little margin on each handset, but also to leveraging its customer base through peripherals and convergent service platforms, particularly around its MIUI platform on Android.
Among the gizmos found on Mi.com: Mi Pad, Mi Box, Mi TV, Redmi Note, Mi Band, Mi Power Bank, and even Mi Air Purifier:
If Mi Mobile is more the Airpocalypse-fighter than the airtime-killer kind of MVNO, MNOs and fellow manufacturers must beware: even before becoming an operator, Xiaomi had the IoT-ready approach players like Samsung lack. And they have a better focus and drive than local rivals Hisense or Foxconn...