China Telecom, the mainland's biggest fixed-line phone company, said it would be able to offer third-generation (3G) services seven or eight months after it gets a licence, based on trials of home-grown 3G standard TD-SCDMA.
China Telecom has so far built 70 stations to undergo TD-SCDMA tests in Baoding of North China's Hebei Province.
"The construction of the remaining 30 stations there will be finished at the end of this month," Chairman Wang Xiaochu told reporters after the company's annual general meeting in Hong Kong yesterday. "We will then start our TD-SCDMA trial-run at 100 stations and the final test results should come out soon."
As for which standard the mainland would adopt, Wang said: "Choosing TD-SCDMA or other 3G standards (in China) should depend on which one of them is more acceptable to local consumers."
TD-SCDMA is a home-grown 3G standard that Beijing said it would adopt to build its national 3G network.
China Telecom and the mainland's two major mobile phone operators China Mobile and China Unicom have been authorized to conduct a TD-SCDMA trial-run on the mainland.
"There are only two mobile operators on the mainland it's too few," said Wang, who felt confident China Telecom will be in the first batch of 3G licence-holders.
"Our strong capital and complete network allow us to provide wireless services without any problem."
Wang said that time was running out if the mainland wanted to meet its goal of providing 3G service by the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
"We expect to get our licence (3G licence) soon because, unlike fixed-line, we will need a longer time to improve and optimize its mobile network," he added.
According to Wang's estimate, China Telecom should be able to provide complete 3G services seven to eight months after getting its 3G licence.
As the mainland's fixed-line phone market becomes saturated, China Telecom is looking to non-voice services such as Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) and broadband Internet to drive the company's further growth.
China Telecom and Shanghai Media Group (SMG) have been jointly test-running IPTV services in Shanghai since late 2005.
"All tests are going well there and we are waiting for the final approval to launch it (IPTV) nationwide," Wu Andi, China Telecom's executive director, told China Daily, without giving any further details.
IPTV is a system where a digital television service is delivered to subscribing consumers using the Internet Protocol over a broadband connection. The State Administration of Radio Film and Television issued the first IPTV licence to SMG last May.
Having added a total of 7.19 million new subscribers in its broadband service in 2005 alone, China Telecom saw its total number of broadband subscribers climb up to 23.16 million in the first quarter of 2006, 10 per cent up from the previous quarter.
It expects to double its broadband subscribers to 40 million in three to four years. "Turnover from the broadband service and IPTV will account for about 35 per cent of the company's total turnover by 2007," Wang told reporters yesterday.
China Telecom posted a net profit of 5.91 billion yuan (US$738 million) in the first quarter of 2006, while its operating revenue (excluding connection fees) amounted to 41.76 billion yuan (US$5.22 billion), an increase of 7.3 percent year on year.
Shares in China Telecom increased slightly by 0.99 percent to close at HK$2.55 (45 US cents) yesterday.
(China Daily May 24, 2006)