China Unicom's 80b yuan spending plan to aid 4G introduction
The No 2 mobile operator on the mainland sets ambitious target for roll-out of high-speed service after posting 46.7pc profit rise for year
China Unicom plans capital expenditure of 80 billion yuan (HK$101.2 billion) this year, with the outlay supporting its high-speed network with the launch of 4G services next month. It aims to extend coverage to more than 300 cities by December.
The mainland's second-largest wireless network operator announced the plans yesterday after posting a 46.7 per cent rise in net profit to 10.4 billion yuan for last year.
"Our policy is that we will continue to provide seamless 3G and 4G services to subscribers," Chang Xiaobing, the firm's chairman and chief executive, said yesterday in Hong Kong.
He said Unicom hoped Beijing would grant it the licence to operate the FDD-LTE standard, which is a more widely adopted 4G standard internationally.
In December, Beijing awarded 4G mobile licences to the three major telecommunications network operators, allowing them to operate on the TD-LTE standard, a mainland-developed 4G standard. "We hope the FDD licence will be granted to us as early as possible," Chang said. He did not say if this would happen in the first half of this year.
Unicom said revenue rose 18.5 per cent to 295 billion yuan in 2013. Its mobile subscribers increased 17.4 per cent to exceed 280 million by the end of last year, with 41.7 million new users.
The number of 3G subscribers reached 123 million, up by 60.4 per cent year on year. They accounted for 43.6 per cent of overall users, up from 31.9 per cent at the end of 2012.
China Mobile, the top player in the world's largest smartphone market, had 767 million subscribers at the end of last year. China Telecom, had 186 million subscribers by year's end, with 56 per cent of them 3G users.
Xiang Ligang, the chief product officer at telecommunications industry portal cctime.com said Unicom's planned spending was in line with its financial capability. it was difficult to forecast when the government would issue the FDD licence, but that there was a big chance it may happen this year, he said.
Company president Lu Yimin said the firm would "build 4G base stations in some important cities, while the general technical direction for Unicom is the FDD network". He said the FDD trial services would be carried out on the company's existing 3G network, known as WCDMA. Unicom last year expanded its 3G stations by 76,000 to 407,000.
"We are going to continue investing in smartphone subsidies to boost users in 2014," Lu said, adding that there was no fixed budget for this.
Mobile monthly average revenue per user rose 0.6 per cent to 48.2 yuan, supported by a growing number of 3G users, Unicom said.