China is about to take net neutrality to the next level after a group of influential tech companies that includes Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, Didi Chuxing and JD.com agreed to invest nearly $12 billion into state-run mobile operator China Unicom.
China Unicom is the country’s second largest operator with 269 million mobile customers, which makes it one of the largest in the world. The investment is being made as part of China’s ‘mixed ownership’ strategy, which was announced in 2014 and encourages state entitles to take on private capital. Essentially it’s akin to a part privatization of national assets to stoke economy growth.
The operator said in a filing that the deal will help it help it rethink its corporate structure and encourage more innovative thinking within its struggling business units. Pulling in companies from various sectors is designed to help China Unicom push ahead with the cloud, big data, internet of things, AI and other areas.
A portion of the proceeds raised will also go towards piloting and later rolling out 5G services across China, the operator added.
The group of around a dozen investors — which includes insurance giant China Life — will own a collective 35 percent stake in China Unicom’s Hong Kong-based business, which itself controls one-third of the central Unicom parent.
At the moment it is unclear how the involvement of the major tech companies will play out, but it’s one to keep an eye on for sure.