China Mobile Communications, parent of red chip China Mobile (Hong Kong), plans to launch third-generation (3G) services as early as the end of 2003, even though Beijing has not yet decided the licence-issuing timetable. At the Digital Economy Summit, a curtain-raiser to the China Hi-Tech Fair, vice-president Li Yue said China Mobile was planning to launch its WCDMA service - the 3G mobile service based on GSM (global system for mobile) technology - by early 2004 at the latest. 'This is our internal business plan. Of course the actual launching date of our WCDMA service will largely depend on the government's 3G licence-issuing schedule,' Mr Li said. Ministry of Information Industry (MII) officials hinted to analysts at a recent meeting in Beijing that the 3G licences would be issued by the end of next year. Mr Li said China Mobile would be the first to apply and it was confident of securing a licence. The dominant mobile operator expects it will take up to 10 months to complete its WCDMA network. It said it had yet to determine the total investment cost, as the company was still in the early stages of developing the WCDMA technology. At the same conference, rival China United Telecommunications (China Unicom) said it would use CDMA2000 as the standard for its 3G mobile service. 'We'll focus on CDMA2000 rather than WCDMA,' group deputy general manager Pang Yuguang said. WCDMA is the GSM network's 3G standard, while CDMA2000 is the 3G standard for the CDMA (code division multiple access) network. Asked whether China Unicom would develop two 3G standards, as it has both GSM and CDMA networks, Mr Pang said it tended to use CDMA2000 technology and believed the CDMA and GSM networks would eventually converge. Meanwhile, China Mobile predicted its subscriber numbers would pass 100 million by the end of the year. This would represent a net addition of more than eight million in the past four months. China Mobile had 92 million subscribers at the end of August. MII predicts China's total mobile subscribers will reach 150 million by the end of the year.