China Unicom (Hong Kong), the country's second-largest mobile operator, launched its 3G service in 55 cities on Sunday, but users are waiting on the sidelines, expecting fees to fall when the service becomes available nationwide by the end of the year, analysts said. Unicom is the last of the three players to introduce a 3G service. The company, which uses the most popular WCDMA 3G mobile technology, is set to challenge industry leader China Mobile, which uses the TD-SCDMA technology developed on the mainland. China Telecom Corp, the biggest fixed-line player, provides its service using the CDMA 2000 technology from the United States. Unicom's 3G network provides maximum uplink and downlink speeds of 5.6 megabits and 7.2 megabits per second, respectively, the fastest of the three carriers. The company's 3G service has been branded 'Wo'. China Mobile's 3G brand is called G3, and China Telecom's is e-Surfing. Unicom will invite some users to join the commercial trial of its 3G service from this month to August at a 50 per cent discount to the monthly usage fees. The company will expand the 3G network coverage to 284 cities and plans a commercial launch by the end of this year. Sources said it signed up only 500 accounts in Beijing for the trial run, and users would need to wait until July to join the service. The monthly usage fees range from 186 yuan to 1,686 yuan, which include voice minutes of 510 minutes and 7,000 minutes, respectively. Incoming voice calls are free, and domestic long-distance fees are waived in all 3G plans. The new 3G tariff plans also include a multimedia package called 'M'. The entry-level 186 yuan usage plan comes with 20 'M', which allows users to download or watch multimedia content from Unicom's 3G mobile portal 20 times. The most expensive plan offers 200 multimedia downloads a month. Unicom has lined up content providers such as China Central Television, Phoenix Satellite Television and music publishers. The carrier's usage plans are the most expensive among the operators. China Mobile offers an entry-level plan of 28 yuan per month with 150 voice minutes, and China Telecom charges 49 yuan per month to join its 3G service. 'It seems Unicom is focusing on the middle to high-end market for its 3G service,' said Marvin Lo, a telecommunications analyst at Daiwa Institute of Research. 'However, 3G service is no longer a premium service, as many subscribers will treat it as basic mobile service. The usage fees, for sure, will fall later on.' A mainland-based telecommunications analyst said Unicom's higher 3G usage fees were aimed at avoiding network traffic congestion, as its capacity was limited. Unicom's 3G packages also include 60 megabytes to 5 gigabytes of mobile data usage, enabling 3G users to connect to non-Unicom content. Users can also subscribe for stand-alone mobile internet by paying an extra 2 yuan to 100 yuan per month for an additional 10 megabytes to 2 gigabytes of mobile data usage. China Mobile is being more aggressive in boosting its mobile data service. Its users can get 30 megabytes for 5 yuan per month. China Telecom's users pay 150 yuan per month for 300 hours of data usage. Unicom charges 150 yuan per month for 3 gigabytes of usage. As Unicom was the last operator to enter the 3G market, it has had sufficient time to source the handsets and devices needed to expand its product range. Unicom chairman Chang Xiaobing said on Sunday at least 30 handset models would be available by the end of next month, from LG, Motorola, Nokia, Philips, Sharp and Sony Ericsson. The firm has also lined up computer makers Acer, Lenovo Group and Samsung to promote netbooks with embedded 3G modems.