China Telecom (CT) will lose its monopoly on fixed-line services in the mainland next month when China Unicom starts a service in Tianjin. China Unicom has lost millions of yuan while waiting a year for telecom officials to connect its system. The connection will mark a milestone in the mainland's telecommunications industry, the first time consumers have a choice of fixed-line services. Unicom is building similar networks in Chengdu and Chongqing, where it plans to offer such services. Unicom was set up in 1994 to end CT's monopoly and has established national paging and mobile telephone networks. But CT has been determined to keep it out of the fixed-line market for as long as possible. Unicom invested 500 million yuan (about HK$465.34 million) in its fixed-line network in Tianjin, where its president Li Huifen used to be vice-mayor, and completed it last July. But, blaming technical problems, local telecom officials refused to connect it to the CT system, costing Unicom an estimated 200,000 yuan a day. Unicom officials say two events broke the deadlock. One was the March merger of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, of which CT was a part, with the Ministry of Electronics Industry, one of the three major Unicom shareholders, to form the Ministry of Information Industry (MII). This made CT and Unicom children of the same parent. The other was a hard-hitting item last month by central television's main investigative programme, which attacked Tianjin officials for their failure to connect Unicom and accused them of deliberate delay. 'The programme was very useful to us,' a Unicom official said. 'National leaders watch it. As a result, MII minister Wu Jichuan and Vice-Premier Wu Bangguo asked when we would be connected in Tianjin.' Unicom has a capacity of 100,000 fixed lines in the first phase of its network in Tianjin and will add more according to demand.