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China Unicom Obtains Greater Market

China Unicom, the country's No 2 mobile telecom operator, reported explosive growth in recent months, with 30 million subscribers as of June 20, the company told China Daily yesterday.

It now controls 24 percent of China's 111 million mobile phone users.

Unicom's growth trend obviously outpaced China Mobile, the dominant mobile operator.

It has 10 million subscribers as of June 2000, 20 million in January this year and 30 million this month.

Under the preferential policies of the government, the charging standard of China Unicom could be 10 to 20 percent lower than the dominant player.

As mobile phones are becoming a daily necessity, lower charging standards help Unicom attract many price sensitive users.

Unicom's mobile network has covered 328 domestic cities. Cooperative contracts with 62 overseas carriers enable Unicom's subscribers to make phone calls in 42 countries and regions.

After a series of expansion, Unicom's network will be able to support 50 million users by the end of the year, the company said.

Besides the presently used GSM, or the global system for mobile communications network, Unicom's CDMA (code division multiple access) network, which could support 15 million users, is scheduled to be kicked off in October.

As the service charge of CDMA network is only half of that of the GSM, many potential customers are tightly holding their wallets now and planning to buy a CDMA phone months later.

GSM phones charge 0.4 yuan (US$0.05) or 0.6 yuan (US$0.07) per minute while CDMA charges just 0.2 yuan (US$0.02).

CDMA phones can now only be used in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Tianjin and Xi'an, and no roaming service is available. After launching the nationwide network, citizens in 300 cities can use CDMA phones to roam throughout these cities.

In a mobile phone retailing store in downtown Beijing, CDMA phones are priced at just 688 yuan (US$83). This is two-thirds or half of that of GSM phones. And the subscriber does not need to pay the network access fee and mobile phone number fee totalling 300 yuan (US$36) that is charged by GSM operators.

Many students and new graduates plan to adopt CDMA phones when Unicom launches the network in 300 cities.

"CDMA gives Unicom an opportunity to rival China Mobile, as it is almost impossible for Unicom to defeat the other one in GSM," said Yang Peifang, senior researcher with China Academy of Telecommunications Research.

(China Daily 06/29/2001)

Unicom starts campaign to expand market
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