Case | HBS Case Collection | January 2009 (Revised May 2011)

China Mobile's Rural Communications Strategy

by William C. Kirby, F. Warren McFarlan, G.A. Donovan and Tracy Manty

Abstract

China Mobile was the world's leading mobile communications service provider with over 400 million customers. In some cities, its penetration rate was over 100%. With such huge successes, Chairman Wang Jianzhou was exploring ways to expand its customer base. Nearly saturated in the cities, China Mobile needed to broaden its base of subscribers. Wang believed that further investment in China's rural villages was a key strategy that would help the fuel growth for the future. Already deeply invested in the rural areas based on the company's participation in the government-mandated "Connect Every Village" project, China Mobile took advantage of this foundation and created new products and value-added services in order to make its mobile phone network more valuable to the lifestyles of China's rural population. However, the cost of connecting remote locations was high and was often not offset by subscriber fees or usage rates of these populations. Would this investment be relegated to a socially responsible project or would it pay off for China Mobile in the future?

Keywords: Communication Technology; Investment; Rural Scope; Growth and Development Strategy; Service Operations; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Business and Government Relations; Telecommunications Industry; China;

Citation:

Kirby, William C., F. Warren McFarlan, G.A. Donovan, and Tracy Manty. "China Mobile's Rural Communications Strategy." Harvard Business School Case 309-034, January 2009. (Revised May 2011.)