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China Mobile unveils 'lucky' 3G numbers

CHINA Mobile started to accept applications in Shanghai yesterday for new "lucky number" 3G phone services, the second such market after Guangdong Province.

China Mobile, the world's biggest mobile telecommunications carrier, is offering numbers that start with 188, auspicious digits that connote good fortune in Chinese culture.

The new numbers are the latest round in a highly competitive battle between China Mobile and the two other carriers that were granted long-awaited 3G licenses in January.

Users of China Mobile's premium GoTone service who have been a customer for at least three months can apply for the new numbers on the company's Website. The application process will run through the end of March, and the new service should commence at the beginning of next month, Shanghai Mobile said.

Licenses for the technology, which provides high-speed mobile services such as video conferencing and film downloads, were also given to China Unicom and China Telecom.

China Mobile's services are powered by TD-SCDMA (time division-synchronous code division multiple access), a homegrown 3G standard. China Unicom is setting up a system based on the European-standard WCDMA (wideband CDMA), and China Telecom will use the US-standard CDMA2000.

China Mobile's "lucky numbers represent the country's support for the domestic TD-SCDMA industry, but it's still uncertain whether consumers are willing to change numbers," said Sandy Shen, a Shanghai-based analyst at Gartner Inc, an information technology consulting firm.

Existing China Mobile customers who buy a 3G phone can now enjoy the service using their present number.

China Mobile aims to expand its TD-SCDMA networks to 38 cities by the end of the first half, from 10 cities now. It expects to cover all cities nationwide by 2011.

China Unicom, which will unveil its 3G network in May, is in negotiations with Apple Inc to launch iPhone 3G in China, the country's No. 2 mobile carrier said. Such a deal would be the first legal iPhone arrangement in the domestic market, sources said.

WCDMA is the most mature 3G technology among the three, and several million smuggled phones, including the iPhone 3G and Nokia N96, have been sold in China.

China Telecom also said it could finish upgrading its 2G networks to 3G in cities such as Shanghai and Beijing within three months.



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