Competition in the South China Sea is heating up once again, only this time it’s commercial.
A week after The Hague ruled that China had no legal basis to claim historic rights to the Spratly Islands (known as the Nansha Islands in Chinese) China Telecom, the nation’s third largest mobile telecoms provider, rolled out 4G coverage across the archipelago.
The China Daily announced that network coverage extended to the islands in a move intended to “safeguard the country’s legal claim in the South China Sea and to improve communication services for local people”.
Currently, the local population is a handful of troops stationed by countries reinforcing their competing claims to the region. But China Telecom says that it has invested Rmb70 million ($10.5 million) in manpower and infrastructure in the South China Sea over the past four years, overcoming problems such as sourcing a reliable electricity supply and protecting its equipment from seawater corrosion.
The small local population will no doubt welcome China Telecom’s service, as it might introduce some healthy price competition with China Mobile, the nation’s largest mobile telecoms provider, which recently extended the 4G coverage it was already providing to much of the area.
In a statement sent to the Global Times by China Mobile, the provider claimed: “Ships passing these waters will receive a message that says ‘Welcome to China’”. A sentiment that in some cases might not be reciprocated.
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