China's dominant mobile telecom carrier is upgrading its network and launching new services on Friday to sharpen its competitive edge, company sources said.
China Mobile, which controls more than 70 percent of China's 161 million mobile phone users, will introduce the 2.5 generation (2.5G) mobile telecom services to its customers nationwide.
The 2.5G, using a GPRS (general packet radio services) system, provides more varieties of value-added data services, such as high-speed Internet access, colorful Internet browsing, e-mail on the move, powerful visual communications and location-based services.
It has been upgraded from the present 2G mobile telecom technology, which mainly supports voice-based communications.
The public's demand for data-based communications is growing rapidly in China. The rapid growth of SMS, or short messaging service, is evidence of that demand.
China's mobile phone users sent 15.9 billion pieces of SMS last year and brought the carriers 1.6 billion yuan (US$192 million) in revenue.
Sending SMS has become fashionable among mobile phone users, especially young people, thanks to their cheap cost and convenience.
But many interesting services are not yet available on the present network because of restrictions of the 2G technology.
China Mobile hopes its 2.5G services will be as successful as i-mode services in Japan. The services were named Monternet, meaning mobile Internet.
The move is widely regarded as a response to China Unicom's CDMA (code division multiple access) services.
China Unicom, the less dominant mobile telecom carrier, introduced CDMA services earlier this year. Unicom officials said they hope CDMA's good performance in data services will help it expand market coverage.
Yet CDMA's performance disappointed the market when it attracted only 800,000 users in four months. That growth rate was far below expectations.
Industry experts do not foresee an immediate strong performance for China Mobile's GPRS.
They said much must still be done before the network can support high-speed Internet access in areas with concentrations of mobile phone users.
(China Daily May 14,2002)