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Unicom unveils 3G phone numbers

CHINA Unicom, which aims to debut its 3G services in May, yesterday announced the three digit prefix for its 3G phone numbers and promised current 2G users that they would be able to switch to 3G without changing their current number.

Meanwhile, people using 3G phones, including the iPhone 3G, will be able to enjoy high-speed 3G services if they subscribe to Unicom, without unlocking their phones.

China Unicom, which will operate a national 3G network based on WCDMA (wideband code division multiple access) technology, is going to use numbers beginning with 186 for 3G subscribers. Its current users, with numbers starting with 130, 131, 132 and 156, will also be able to subscribe to 3G services without changing their number, said China Unicom's Shanghai branch.

China Unicom, the country's No. 2 mobile carrier, is going to invest 100 billion yuan (US$14.7 billion) in its network this year.

It is expected to finish construction of its 3G network in 55 cities in the first half of this year and a total of 282 cities by the end of the year, Chang Xiaobin, the firm's chairman, has said.

"We are constructing the 3G network and testing the trial WCDMA networks in the city, such as areas around Zhongshan Park," said a source from China Unicom's Shanghai branch who declined to be identified.

Shanghai-listed China Unicom gained 1 percent to 5.04 yuan, compared to a 2.44-percent increase in the market's index.

In January, China issued 3G licenses to three carriers - China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom - based on three different technologies. Using the 3G networks, users can enjoy high-speed services including video conferencing and film downloads on handsets.

With 3G, the WCDMA phone download speed is up to 14.4 megabytes per second, 40 times faster than current peak speeds.

WCDMA is the most commercially mature technology of the three as it has been widely adopted worldwide. Therefore, many popular Shuihuo, or overseas phones, support WCDMA, including the iPhone 3G and Nokia's N96.

But owners of overseas 3G phones, have to change their phone numbers if they want to use China Unicom's 3G services, said Shanghai Unicom.

"China Mobile will continue to dominate the market in the short term but the market will have more cutthroat competition in future," research firm Analysys International said in a recent note.

In Shanghai, China Unicom will launch more price-aggressive fee packages this week, Shanghai Unicom said yesterday.



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