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BT granted domestic licences for China

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BT has become one of the first international telecoms companies to be granted a domestic telecoms licence for nationwide services in China.

BT has been granted two licences – one for domestic IP-VPN and another to become an nationwide internet services provider (ISP) – which enables the UK-based telco’s Chinese arm to contract directly with customers in the country and bill them in local currency.

The value-added licences were granted by the China Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, marking a significant win for BT China Communications. It follows cooperation between the UK government and the People’s Republic of China, allowing BT to offer a more localised service.

UK international trade secretary Liam Fox MP praised the decision as a “major milestone” for BT and the UK telecoms market. He said: “I am very pleased that close cooperation between the UK and Chinese governments has resulted in BT securing these licences which will enable it to operate across the country. This major milestone exemplifies the vital work of my international economic department to open up markets and ensure that UK firms are represented on the global stage.”

BT, which has operations in more than 180 countries worldwide, labelled the award of the licences a “major step” for the company’s operations in China, where a number of its multinational customers are looking for secure and reliable connectivity services.

Bas Burger, CEO of Global Services, BT, said: “We are delighted with this major benefit for our customers. Thanks to cooperation between the governments of the PRC and the UK, we are now able to offer a nationwide service in China that can be scaled up to match the ambitions and needs of our customers. Being able to service and bill locally significantly simplifies the process of delivering connectivity and other communication services. It is what our customers expect from us and we are very grateful for the opportunity to do this as of today.”

It comes at a time when China’s telecoms sector has faced notable scrutiny, primarily around vendors Huawei and ZTE, with the former seeing its CFO arrested in Canada at the end of 2018 over allegations around selling equipment in Iran despite sanctions against the country.

BT itself was caught up in the ongoing Huawei story when the UK incumbent announced plans to remove Huawei equipment from its core network. BT has had a policy which prevented it from using Huawei tech in its core network since 2006. However, with its acquisition of EE in 2016, BT inherited networks with Huawei kit in the core.

Capacity spoke to Bas Burger about the future of BT Global Services following a difficult few years for our December/January issue. Check out the interview <>