Third-generation (3G) wireless proponents KDDI of Japan, South Korea's SK Telecom and United States-based Qualcomm are expanding their ties with China Unicom, despite a freeze on launching new high-speed, Internet-ready mobile phone systems in the mainland. Senior officials from the three firms announced the strategy at separate media briefings yesterday on the sidelines of the Telecom Asia conference and exhibition. They will help prepare the mainland's No 2 mobile operator and its subscribers to use 3G services when deployment is allowed. KDDI and SK Telecom operate 3G systems based on the code division multiple access (CDMA) mobile standard, developed by Qualcomm, in their respective markets. China Unicom operates both second-generation CDMA and global system for mobile (GSM) standard networks. KDDI president Tadashi Onodera said he looked forward to 'increasing co-operation with China Unicom' in the area of mobile applications development for the mainland operator's fledgling CDMA operation. 'We have mobile applications in Japan that can be localised for China,' he said, noting that Chinese developers would also be welcome to create applications suited for Japan. KDDI has an international roaming agreement for CDMA mobile phone services with China Unicom. The two operators also have an existing alliance in mobile technology development and cellular operations. John Liu, chief executive of SK Telecom China, said the company's present focus was on supplying affordable CDMA handsets with built-in cameras to China Unicom. Deliveries started a few weeks ago and will be completed by the first quarter next year. 'There is a shortage of handsets for China Unicom,' he said. 'At the end of year, they will have seven million users and they still need a couple of million handsets.' SK Telecom provides technical services on the construction of China Unicom's CDMA network and its preparation for future 3G applications. Meanwile, Qualcomm announced the signing of an agreement with China Unicom to create a joint venture that will foster use and development in the mainland of the American firm's binary runtime environment for wireless (Brew) software platform. Qualcomm wireless and Internet president Paul Jacobs said the venture would nurture the fast-growing Brew developer community in China.