Hutchison, Unicom and CTM gain right to offer new services in limited market Hong Kong-listed China Unicom and Hutchison Telecommunications International, together with Macau telecommunications operator CTM, won licences from the Macau government yesterday to offer high-speed 3G mobile services. Although Macau's market is relatively small with only 623,713 mobile phone users as of August 31, it grew 26 per cent over the same period last year and the tender attracted five bidders for the three licences that were on offer. Two other bidders - SmarTone Telecommunications Macau, a unit of Hong Kong-based SmarTone-Vodafone, and Kong Seng Paging, a Macau paging company - lost out to their larger rivals. Unicom is the mainland's No2 mobile operator while HTIL runs a string of mostly emerging-market mobile services, including one in Hong Kong. Unicom, which is widely expected to win a licence to provide 3G services in China, will be the first mainland mobile operator offering 3G outside its home market. It won a 16-year licence to provide 3G services based on code division multiple access (CDMA) technology. It will use the CDMA 2000 1X EVDO standard. 'The Macau 3G service, as an extension of Unicom's [mainland] CDMA network, will provide valuable experience in the construction and business operations to the mainland 3G operation,' Unicom said yesterday. Unicom won a 2G CDMA licence in March last year. For the first year of operation, the company was allowed to provide international roaming service for its mainland or overseas CDMA users. The mainland operator started offering local CDMA services on Sunday. Hutchison Telecom Macau, the local unit of HTIL, will offer European-based wideband code division multiple access (WCDMA) 3G service. The company will invest 300 million patacas to upgrade the network to 3.5G, or high-speed downlink packet access service, next year. 'Leveraging on our proven experience in Hong Kong and other markets, the company will bring in the latest HSDPA technology and offer new business opportunities for content and service providers in Macau,' said Ho Wai-ming, chief executive of Hutchison Telecom Macau. Hutchison Telecom, together with its local rival SmarTone Telecommunications, broke the long-standing monopoly of mobile phone operations in Macau in 2001, when they won 2G licences from the government. CTM, the incumbent Macau telecommunication service provider, will also offer 3G service next year based on the WCDMA technology. The Macau government can issue an additional 3G licence within two years. The government expects the licence winners to offer 3G services in the former Portuguese colony as early as the middle of next year.