The controversial urban wireless services offered by China's two fixed-line giants - China Telecommunications Group and China Netcom Group - have had a 70 per cent increase in subscribers over the first five months this year. Users of the pair's so-called Xiaolingtong service reached nearly 20 million by the end of May, against about 12 million at the end of last year. China Telecom accounted for 16 million users. That contrasted with 11.3 per cent subscriber growth for the mainland's major mobile carriers - China Mobile Communications Corp and China United Telecommunications Corp - during the same period. Xiaolingtong accounted for about 43 per cent of the 18.46 million new fixed-line users signed up by China Telecom and China Netcom, and 8 per cent of the mainland's 232.88 million fixed-line subscribers. A wireless local loop access network that provides limited mobility in an urban area, Xiaolingtong was classified as an extension of fixed-line services by the Ministry of Information Industry following China Mobile and China United's objections to its introduction. The latest Xiaolingtong subscriber numbers were revealed by China Telecom chief engineer Wei Leping in a lengthy commentary posted on the Web site of People's Posts and Telecommunications News, a news agency under the supervision of the Ministry of Information Industry. The surge in Xiaolingtong users stemmed from an aggressive nationwide launch of the service earlier this year. By charging only a fraction of mobile rates, Xiaolingtong is increasingly popular among low-end mobile users. The service also upsets the mainland's mobile tariff system by forcing China Mobile and China United to cut prices. Mr Wei said the fixed-line carriers' aggressive push of Xiaolingtong was due to a delay of issuance of third-generation mobile licences by the government. An equally important factor was the lack of growth prospects for traditional fixed-line services. 'Xiaolingtong services are popular among the mass public, and we've seen substantial revenue increases,' Mr Wei said. He added that because the cost for building Xiaolingtong services was much lower than for traditional fixed-line networks, it only took about three years to recoup the investment.