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Unicom set for entry into the era of 3G

SHARES of China Unicom jumped an accumulated 18 percent on the Shanghai stock market in the past few trading days, as the country's second biggest mobile carrier is expected to launch its new 3G logo and services today.

China Unicom will adopt the WCDMA (wideband code division multiple access) technology, the most mature 3G standard of the three formats that are available, which will help the telco gain an advantage against its two domestic rivals, industry officials said.

Shanghai-listed China Unicom jumped 7 percent to close at 6.73 yuan (98 US cents) yesterday, compared with a nearly 1.8-percent drop in the Shanghai Composite Index.

China Unicom is expected to unveil its new 3G logo called "WO" and launch next-generation mobile services mainly in five areas - mobile Internet, mobile music, mobile TV, mobile search and video calling - the company said.

Rivals China Mobile and China Telecom have launched or promoted 3G services after China issued 3G licenses to the three telcos in January.

China Mobile has adopted the home-developed TD-SCDMA (time division-synchronous CDMA) and China Telecom will use the United States-developed CDMA 2000.

Globally, 70 percent of 3G users subscribe to WCDMA carriers. The WCDMA standard is the most commercially mature 3G technology. Popular overseas phones support WCDMA, including the iPhone 3G, Nokia's N96 and E71 and Samsung's i900.

"China Unicom's 3G network deployment is much further behind and slower than that of its peers," said Sherrie Huang, an analyst at Ovum, a United Kingdom-based consulting firm. "A possible deal with Apple would give China Unicom an effective weapon to compete for and attract high-value subscribers."

China Unicom is in talks with Apple to introduce the iPhone 3G into China, maybe in May or later, said Chang Xiaobin, its chairman.

China Unicom is set to finish building its 3G network in 55 cities in the first half of the year and in 282 cities by year's end.

The 3G technology allows high-speed services, including video calls and conferences as well as film downloads on cell phones.



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