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Unicom likely to invest US$15b on 3G

CHINA Unicom, which will adopt the WCDMA, is expected to invest 100 billion yuan (US$14.7 billion) to finish construction of its third generation network in 282 cities by the end of this year, the telecommunication carrier said yesterday.

The telco, the country's No. 2 mobile carrier, will launch the wideband code division multiple access, a 3G technology based on the GSM (Global System for Mobile communication) system as early as May, sources from equipment makers said yesterday.

By the end of this year, China Unicom will set up WCDMA networks in 282 cities nationwide and it will complete construction in 55 cities by the first half of the year, said Chang Xiaobin, the telco's chairman.

"On 3G development, China Telecom and China Mobile (which started trial 3G services last April) are ahead of China Unicom but we will continue to invest in 3G," Chang said.

The WCDMA is the world's most widely-used 3G technology, with most mobile phones - including the iPhone 3G and most Nokia N and E series - supporting the standard.

China Unicom started bidding for telecom equipment makers earlier this month and it is expected to complete network upgrading in three months, said equipment makers Alcatel-Lucent Shanghai Bell and Huawei.

China issued the long awaited 3G licenses, which allow users to access high-speed data services on mobile phones, to the three telcos two weeks ago.

Huge investments in equipment are likely, said Sandy Shen, an analyst at Gartner Inc.



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