Google says mobile services now partly blocked in China


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Updated 10:30 a.m. with response from Google.

On Sunday, Google updated a page that has been tracking the status of its services in China to indicate that its ‘Mobile’ service there is now partially blocked.

The precise nature of the block was not clear from Google’s status page. In response to an inquiry, company noted that the availability of its services fluctuates regularly, and that it was too early to confirm if the block would be persistent, or whether it was related to the feud with China.


For users located in China, the block might have meant a service disruption for any or all of the features the company provides to users of Google-powered phones, including the mobile version of its search, e-mail, mapping and social networking services.

Of the 12 services listed on the status page, the ‘Mobile’ category is the only one that has changed since Google posted the status page last Monday. (In fact, the Mobile category was not originally listed on the page). All other services either began blocked or began unblocked, and their status has not changed.

Last week, Google made clear that the status page is not tracking the censorship of individual queries, but rather the broad availability of its services in China. (Reports from China indicated that searches for many restricted topics -- for example, Falun Gong or Tiananmen Square -- result in errors.)

But until now the Chinese government, which could at any time opt to turn off Google’s services in China by cutting links to the uncensored Google site in Hong Kong, has left Google’s services operational.

Because of the huge number of mobile phone users in China, analysts have said that Google would likely want to continue competing in that country’s mobile market, even if it was forced to shutter its search operation.

Threatening Google’s mobile position in China further, China Unicom, one of the country’s largest telecommunications providers, said it would no longer allow Google’s search engine to work on its Android phones.


-- David Sarno