China's telecommunications sector faces an overhaul after the Government announced it wants to create four giant companies offering a full range of fixed-line and mobile services. The plan is set to include all four mainland telecoms operators - the Hong Kong-listed China Mobile and China Unicom and the two new companies to be formed by splitting dominant fixed-line operator China Telecom. Minister of Information Industry Wu Jichuan said the two new operators, China Telecom and China Network Communications (China Netcom), would be officially launched next month, the official China Daily reported yesterday. Unveiling the proposals for the sector yesterday, Mr Wu said all four operators would have their licences extended to cover fixed-line, mobile, broadband and other basic services. 'With the four operators starting to provide multiple services, the market will be more competitive and customers will be able to enjoy better quality services for more reasonable prices,' Mr Wu said. China Unicom and China Mobile are now the only operators that can provide mobile-phone services in the world's largest mobile market, with about 140 million subscribers. China Unicom is the only integrated telecoms services provider in the country that can provide both fixed-line and mobile-phone services. Mr Wu said the plans for the sector would take at least two years to materialise. The plans would mean awarding coveted mobile licences to the two new players. Richard Ferguson, co-head of regional telecoms research at Nomura International, said: 'His [Mr Wu's] comments indicate that China Telecom and China Netcom will likely secure wireless licences within that time-frame, leading inevitably to more competition.' The plans could also mean China Mobile being forced to operate fixed-line services on top of its present operations. However, yesterday the company hinted it was uncertain about the viability of the plans. 'Over the years, the development strategy of the company has been to focus on mobile communications and related businesses,' it said. 'The company will remain cautious on any opportunities of engaging in comprehensive fixed-line businesses.' Lehman Brothers telecoms analyst Charles Peza believed the telecoms regulator was unlikely to force China Mobile to aggressively invest in the fixed-line business but rather would leave it to the company to decide. 'China Unicom also has a fixed-line licence, but the MII [Ministry of Information Industry] has never pushed it to invest heavily in traditional fixed-line business. If the MII leaves it to themselves, I don't think China Mobile will invest in fixed-line business,' Mr Peza said. Giving all four operators licences to provide a full range of telecoms services would also allow the MII to issue new mobile licences without getting complaints from the existing players. 'Everybody gets everything so that nobody will complain,' said Mr Peza. In an article posted on the MII and Xinhua news agency's Web site, Mr Wu said China Telecom had recorded a mere 5 per cent growth in revenue last year. It was the company's slowest annual growth since the beginning of China's open-door policy in 1979. In contrast, overall revenue in China's telecoms sector last year grew 23 per cent to reach 370 billion yuan (about HK$353.2 billion). Mr Wu also commented that, with the maturity of China's stock market, telecoms operators might not have to go to overseas stock markets to raise capital. He said domestic investors would have their first chance to buy high-growth telecoms shares. China Mobile and China Unicom are seeking to raise funds. Analysts believed that both operators' share offering plans would include domestic as well as foreign listings.