Does an operator need to be domiciled in the country? Are there any restrictions on foreign ownership of telecoms operators?

Technology (second edition)

Switzerland Small Flag Switzerland

Generally, no restrictions apply to operators not domiciled in Switzerland or companies owning interests in the electronic communications market in Switzerland. However, subject to any international obligations to the contrary, ComCom may refuse to grant a license to use the radio frequency spectrum to foreign-incorporated companies unless reciprocal rights are granted to Swiss companies under the relevant foreign laws. Foreign TSPs obtaining contractual access to the network services of a TSP in Switzerland enter the market as Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs). MVNOs do not need an operation licence as their network is based on the transmission frequencies of the licenced operators. In Switzerland, there are three suppliers of mobile network infrastructure and several MVNOs.

China Small Flag China

Foreign-fund telecoms operators are allowed to engaged in BTS and VATS in China through a Sino-foreign equity joint venture which is domiciled in China. According to the Provisions on the Administration of Foreign-fund Telecommunications Enterprises (2016 Revision), the foreign investment in a foreign-funded telecom enterprise which is engaged in BTS (exclusive radio paging services) shall not be more than 49%; the foreign investment in a foreign-funded telecom enterprise which is engaged in VATS (including radio paging business in BTS) shall not be more than 50%. Further, to fulfil China’s commitments to the WTO and to open up China’s telecoms industry, in 2015, the MIIT issued the Circular for Lifting Restrictions on the Foreign Equity Ratio for Online Data Processing and Transaction Processing Business to allow foreign investors to hold up to 100% equity interest in e-commerce operations nationwide in China. In the Opinions of MIIT and the Shanghai Municipal Government on Further Opening Up the Value-added Telecommunications Services in China, for app stores business, storage-forwarding business, call center services, domestic multiparty communications services and internet access services (providing access services for internet users), the foreign investment in Shanghai Free Trade Zone may be up to 100%; for domestic internet virtual private network (VPN) business, the foreign investment is subject to a 50% cap.

In addition, according to the Announcement of MIIT on Issues concerning the Provision of Telecommunication Services Provided by Hong Kong and Macau Service Providers in the Mainland, Hong Kong and Macau service providers may establish joint ventures or wholly owned enterprise to provide the VATS such as online data processing and transaction processing service (limited to e-commerce), domestic multi-party communications service, storage-forwarding service, call center service, internet access service (providing access services for internet users) and information service business (limited to application stores), and the proportion of Hong Kong-owned and Macau-owned equity is not limited. Further, Hong Kong and Macau service providers may establish joint ventures to provide the following VATS, but the proportion of Hong Kong-owned and Macau-owned equity shall not exceed 50%: online data processing and transaction processing service (excluding e-commerce); domestic VPN service, internet data center service; internet access service (exclusive providing access services for internet users) and information service (excluding application stores).

Some sectors of internet-related services are not open to foreign investment. In the negative list of the Catalogue for the Guidance of Foreign Investment Industries (2017 Revision), foreign investment is prohibited from engaging in internet news information services, network publication services, network video and audio programs services, internet culture operations (exclusive music) and internet public information distribution services.

Updated: July 13, 2018