China's Ministry of Information Industry has urged incumbent fixed-line operator China Telecom to speed up the pace of reform. During a video conference last week, Minister of Information Industry Wu Jichuan and his deputy Xi Guohua urged the dominant telecommunications carrier to speed up preparation work for the company to split into two fixed-line network operators. The telecoms regulator had planned to complete the reform and launch the two new fixed-line operators before the Lunar New Year, on February 12. Beijing ordered the break-up of China Telecom into two entities covering separate geographical locations, with the northern 10 provincial networks to merge with China Netcom and Jitong Network Communications. The move was intended by the Government to end China's fixed-line monopoly and create a competitive environment in the sector as part of its World Trade Organisation accession terms. Sources said the reform faced lots of difficulties particularly the merger of China Telecom with China Netcom and Jitong. Mr Xi is in charge of the preparatory committee of the firm. He would also be the president and chief executive of new China Netcom once the company was officially set up, sources said. Last week, Mr Xi ordered China Telecom's management to comply with the ministry's emergency order in telecoms reform, and to ensure a smooth merger. He also ordered the 10 northern networks to ensure 'orderly competition, friendly co-operation, mutual learning and development,' according to news portal CNII.com. 'We are trying to launch this as early as possible, but there is still much paperwork,' the China Daily yesterday quoted a China Telecom spokesman as saying. After weeks of delay, China Telecom officials said they expected to have two new carriers up and running by the end of this month, the newspaper reported. The new carriers will not start operations until after the National People's Congress and the end of the fifth section of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.