Hutchison Whampoa is intensifying efforts to push its loss-making third-generation mobile operations in the run-up to Christmas, yesterday doubling its order of 3G NEC handsets to six million. Japanese telephone maker NEC Corp said it would start delivery of new models for Hutchison's worldwide 3G operations between the end of this month and early November, raising hopes that Hutchison might be able to join the Christmas sales rush. The announcement by NEC probably will ease market worries that Hutchison may miss its 3G subscriber targets because of a shortage of handsets in Britain and Italy earlier this year. Analysts were concerned NEC would fail to deliver a large number of the handsets before Christmas. A report issued by Goldman Sachs last week highlighted a lack of handset supplies and warned that Hutchison's Christmas sales push could disappoint significantly if it did not receive substantial supplies of new NEC e616 handsets within four to five weeks. Recent reports said Hutchison had seen subscriber growth slow to about 2,500 customers a week in Britain in recent months due to a shortage of handsets - a sharp decline from the 15,000 customers signed up every week in June and July. The order for three million extra handsets followed Hutchison's announcement last month it would give away video handsets to new subscribers of its 3 Italia service. The offer was similar to its British promotion in June and came after 3 Italia said it had run out of handsets last month. It is believed that NEC is planning to ship between two million and 2.5 million 3G handsets by the end of the year. So far, it has shipped only about 600,000 to Hutchison, meaning NEC will need to ship an additional 1.4 million to 1.9 million units in the next two months to meet its target. Hutchison had set an aggressive target of signing two million 3G users from Britain and Italy.