Large mainland firms are deploying new business communications systems to link a range of wireless, internet-based infrastructure. The development is expected to convince more enterprises in China that advanced internet-based networks would help raise productivity while cutting communications costs. 'We see China as a very aggressive market for converged business communications products,' said Nortel Networks chief information officer Albert Hitchcock. 'The level of maturity of technology offers compelling business value for enterprises to build seamless and secure mobile communications.' Mr Hitchcock said companies, big or small, could justify their adoption of IP-based virtual private networks (VPNs) and wireless local area networks (WLANs) because these systems supported business continuity and decreasing operational costs. 'At Nortel, for example, our investment in IP telephony delivered a payback after three months and communications savings worth US$25 million a year,' he said. He said Nortel's latest mainland projects, announced early this month, pointed to increased interest from Chinese firms 'to simplify infrastructure administration and eliminate boundaries' for users of various wireless communications and IP-based networking systems. Project costs were not given. A sales branch of Hong Kong and New York-listed China Petroleum and Chemical Corp (Sinopec), the mainland's largest oil producer, has deployed key Nortel enterprise networking equipment to address its changing communications needs. Shenzhen Oil Products Company installed Nortel's Contivity gear to implement a broadband IP-VPN that can handle all voice, data and video traffic at its branch offices and petrol stations. The setup brings cost and performance advantages of the public internet, and the security and control of private or leased-line networks. Nortel Greater China president and chief executive Robert Mao claimed the IP-VPN deployment was a first for China's petrochemical industry. China's Ministry of Railways, meanwhile, will test Nortel's industry-specific technology called GSM for Railways (GSM-R), a radio communications system that expands on the global system for mobile communications cellular standard. The GSM-R infrastructure enables railway operators to provide clear voice and data communications on trains travelling up to 500km/h. It includes support for WLAN and general packet radio service for data applications. It will be adapted to a landmark project for China's West Development Strategy, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. More than 84 per cent of the 1,142km railway is 4,000 metres or more above sea level, making it the world's highest railway line. Almost half of this is built on perennially frozen earth, which would challenge Nortel's experience in network deployment, operation and maintenance. The trial, to cover 186km of the railway line, marks the first GSM-R test track in Asia with a double coverage solution, comprising GSM and WLAN, and no analogue radio system backup. Mr Hitchcock expected more mainland organisations in the government, education, energy, telecommunications and financial services sectors to deploy integrated IP-based communications and WLAN systems over the next two years. But multinational suppliers such as Nortel, Avaya and Cisco Systems are facing increased competition from large mainland vendors such as Huawei Technologies and ZTE.