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150m users in 3G mode

CHINA'S third-generation networks will be able to support 150 million users by 2011, after the government granted licenses allowing carriers to offer high-speed wireless services this year, the industry regulator said.

The nation's three phone companies may spend 100 billion yuan (US$14.6 billion) each on 3G networks, Minister of Industry and Information Technology Li Yizhong said yesterday in Beijing, where he's attending meetings of the National People's Congress.

China Mobile Ltd, China Telecom Corp and China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd received 3G licenses in January to offer faster services allowing Web-browsing and music downloads that may boost their revenue as demand growth stalls.

The 3G rollout benefits equipment providers, including Ericsson AB, Huawei Technologies Co and ZTE Corp, as the carriers upgrade networks in the world's biggest phone market by users.

The slowing economy has "hurt" China Mobile's growth in urban areas, Chairman Wang Jianzhou said on Tuesday. The Beijing-based firm will expand its 3G network to 38 cities by June, he said last month.

Telecommunications revenue in China rose 7 percent to 814 billion yuan last year, easing from an 11-percent growth in 2007, government data showed. The country had 641.2 million cell-phone users at the end of last year.



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