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Unicom goes 3G on May 17
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China Unicom will probably launch its third-generation service based on WCDMA (wideband code division multiple access) technology, the most mature 3G system among the three 3G variants in the domestic market, in May, industry insiders said Monday.

At present, most shuihuo phones (smuggled ones) in China support WCDMA, including Nokia E71, Nokia N95 and iPhone 3G.

Existing China Unicom's 2G users can use the 3G services directly without changing the numbers, industry insiders said.

China Unicom, which obtained a 3G license last week, will launch 3G services on May 17, World Telecommunciations Day, the People's Daily Website said on Monday.

China Unicom will complete its bidding process for suppliers of WCDMA equipment around the Spring Festival, about two weeks later, and start network construction soon after, telecom equipment makers said previously. China Unicom had said it could finish the network upgrade within three months.

Like China Mobile, current China Unicom users who have cell phone numbers starting with 130, 131, 132 and 156 can upgrade to 3G without changing numbers. But they are required to buy new WCDMA phones.

Users of shuihuo can subscribe to the WCDMA services but they may be required to change their cell phone numbers if they are not China Unicom's subscribers now, analysts said.

China Unicom is expected to invest 100 billion yuan (US$14.7 billion) this year and next year on 3G.

(Shanghai Daily January 13, 2009)

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