TWO of China's top telecommunications operators have promised to cut broadband rates and lift Internet access speed over the next five years, aiming to terminate a government anti-monopoly probe on broadband business launched last month.

China Telecom and China Unicom, which together hold almost 90 percent of the country's broadband market share and have more than 100 million accounts, said yesterday that they had applied to the National Development and Reform Commission to end the anti-monopoly investigations.

The commission confirmed yesterday it had received the applications, which were sent on November 17, according to Xinhua news agency.

Under China's antitrust law, the two state-owned telecommunications giants may face a combined fine of up to 8 billion yuan (US$1.26 billion) if the commission, the country's top economic planner, finds obvious evidence of unfair monopolistic practices.

"We have found the problems and fixed them. Meanwhile, we will enhance broadband access speeds during the next five years and further lower broadband service charges for the public," China Unicom said in a statement on its website.

China Telecom, the country's biggest broadband service provider with over 70 million customers, released a similar statement. It promised to cut broadband rates by 35 percent within five years.

According to China's anti-monopoly law, authorities can decide to end anti-monopoly investigations if the business operators promise to take concrete actions to correct their practices in a given period of time approved by the authorities.

The commission's probe into the two operators was the first anti-monopoly case involving large state-owned enterprises in China since the country implemented its first anti-monopoly law in 2008.

On November 9, the commission said it was investigating the two companies over suspected monopolistic practices in broadband business. The two giants, which own the country's core network necessary for broadband services, were suspected to be renting networks at "improperly high prices" to other broadband service providers and using their market dominance to practice "price discrimination," according to the NDRC.

China Telecom and China Unicom did not fully integrate their networks and, therefore, increased access costs and slowed down Internet speeds, Xinhua reported earlier, citing Li Qing, deputy head of the commission's price supervision and anti-monopoly department.

Both companies acknowledged in yesterday's statements that they had found improper price charges for Internet service providers and fixed them.

Since last month, the carriers have taken measures to improve their broadband services, including enhancement of speed by five to 10 times for free in Shanghai.

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