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Policy changes could harm China's cell market

China Mobile, the country’s largest mobile phone operator, has unveiled a surprise raft of fee and subscription policy changes that are expected to harm the growth of the content market in China at a crucial early stage in its development.

Web firms including Nasdaq-listed Linktone plus Sina Corp., Sohu and Tom.com say changes will make it more difficult to attract new customers and keep existing ones.

Stocks in Netcos affected were badly hit by the news. Shares in London-listed Monstermob dropped more than 50% in value Monday to 54p ($1) after the U.K. mobile content group warned that the changes could hit its business in the second half of the year.

The changes, handed down by the Information Industry ministry, are meant to protect China’s 400 million cellphone users. They cover subscription services on China Mobile’s Monternet platform such as daily news updates or other information services sent by short message system (SMS), multimedia message system (MMS) or wireless application protocol (WAP).

Meanwhile, the city of Xi’an, capital of northwest China’s Shanxi province, will stage what is billed as Asia’s first cellphone film fest in September. Hong Kong helmer Chen Guo will chair the jury.

Applicants may submit 10-minute films via the Sina.com Web site through Aug. 25.

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