ABC Communications (Holdings) and its 15 per cent owned mobile phone unit, SmarTone, will launch a paging and phone service, following the latter's failure to secure a personal communications services (PCS) licence. Deputy managing director Patricia Yeung Shuk-kwan said the package would be marketed in the third quarter and was being released to suit consumers who hold mobile phones as well as pagers. 'About 60 per cent to 70 per cent of mobile phone users have pagers at the same time and our focus group studies show there are needs for the service,' she said. The package would offer 'value-added and various associate services', she said, giving no further details. Having failed in its bid for a PCS licence, ABC's main profit earner would not suffer unduly as it already had established a firm foothold in the market, Ms Yeung said at the company's annual meeting yesterday. 'It has its competitive edge . . . with three years experience in the market,' she said. 'In the past, SmarTone may not have had enough frequencies in expanding the services, but since July we've had an additional 0.4 megahertz.' SmarTone is 40 per cent held by Sun Hung Kai Properties, 30 per cent by AT&T Wireless Communications and 15 per cent by Town Kahn. SmarTone accounted for 47 per cent, or US$43.5 million, of ABC's net profit in the year to March. The company's subscriber base, which ABC claims is rising at an average monthly rate of more than 10,000, is expected to reach 300,000 by the end of this year, she said. Ms Yeung denied ABC's paging business was shrinking, and while 'the number of pager subscribers may drop over a period of time, I cannot see any drastic decrease in the near future'. Further expansion of the business was unlikely as the network was already 'well established', she said. Although sales of ABC's pagers had suffered at the hands of fierce competition, the paging service last year accounted for about 43 per cent, or $40 million, of the company's attributable profit. Turnover had dropped 2.8 per cent to $358 million, while attributable profit edged up 2.6 per cent up to $92.5 million.