China Mobile launches UK cellphone carrier for Chinese Tourists

China Mobile

State-owned mobile services giant China Mobile is betting on the future of Chinese travellers (and expatriates) in the United Kingdom with a new partnership with UK telecom incumbent BT Group. The partnership will see China Mobile launch a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) called CMLink in the country, i.e. launching its own mobile carrier that utilizes the EE network. The new operator specifically targets Chinese tourists, Chinese students, and Chinese immigrants and expatriates in the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom is the first market where China Mobile has announced such an initiative. State-owned China Mobile is already the world’s largest mobile operator by far, with some 880 million customers in China. The new MVNO is also specifically targeted at Chinese consumers in overseas markets—marking a similar strategy employed by China’s mobile payment giants, Alipay and WeChat Pay. Even though the expansion is undertaken in overseas markets, Chinese consumers remain the targeted customers.

Subscribers of CMLink will—despite being all the way over in Europe—be able to call China Mobile’s 880 million customers for free. The CMLink MVNO will come with three main features in the subscription package: free minutes, unlimited texts, and different data packages.

It may also prove an interesting option for Britons who often find themselves travelling for business in China. Subscribers to CMLink will avoid all roaming charges in China, Hong Kong, and in European Union member states.

Theo Blackwell, the chief digital officer for the mayor of London, referred to the deal with China Mobile as an “important step” to make London the “data capital” of the world in spite of the impending UK withdrawal from the European Union. 

The partnership will allow Chinese people and communities to stay connected, whether they are UK residents, students, here on business or visiting as tourists.

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