With their 3G network development plans on track, the mainland's three state-owned telecommunications giants are now subsidising domestic netbook sales to lure more fixed-line internet subscribers to adopt their mobile broadband services. Analysts said netbooks - low-cost, internet-ready mini-notebooks with limited applications - would serve as transitional wireless devices for network operators to raise public awareness of 3G services, but the ultimate focus would remain with advanced mobile telephones. China Mobile, China Telecom Corp and China Unicom, which have all launched 3G networks this year, are banking on mobile broadband services as a key selling point to lure users into upgrading from 2G. Mobile broadband services cater to a growing base of laptop computers capable of high-speed internet access through a built-in 3G chip or an external USB modem, which supports download speeds of at least 3.6 megabits. China Telecom and Unicom already provide thousands of Wi-fi hot spots in coffee shops and public venues to enable users to log on to the internet using their home broadband account and Wi-fi-capable laptops. While Wi-fi signals can only support short distances to connect users within a hot spot's coverage, the carriers' new mobile broadband initiative delivers a complementary infrastructure that allows laptop users to remain online even during their daily commute. China Mobile, which provides the homegrown TD-SCDMA service, is pushing netbooks with heavy usage fee subsidies. The company has partnered with 17 leading computer makers such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo Group, Founder and Haier to provide 29 models with a built-in TD-SCDMA chip, enabling users to connect to its 3G network. The world's largest mobile operator is aggressive in its programme, which offers up to 2,100 yuan (HK$2,388) mobile internet usage and voice usage fee. It also has set a low-entry usage monthly fee of 50 yuan for 500 megabytes of internet data usage, with a maximum charge of 500 yuan per month if a subscriber goes beyond the usage plan. China Telecom, which operates a CDMA 2000 mobile network, also offers more than 20 models of netbooks with Wi-fi and CDMA 3G connectivity in a partnership with five leading computer makers. Like its rivals, China Telecom offers a one-off usage fee subsidy of 1,200 yuan per device and is bundling each netbook with mobile and fixed-line accounts to boost ist market share. Unicom, which offers 3G services based on the more popular WCDMA technology, has collaborated with computer makers Samsung Electronics, Acer and Lenovo to provide 3G-compatible netbooks. The computers, with prices ranging from 3,899 yuan to 4,399 yuan, include a 600 yuan mobile broadband usage fee. Subscribers will automatically join the 150 yuan per month package with 3 gigabytes of mobile broadband data usage. The company also provides 200 yuan per month and 300 yuan per month packages, for 5 gigabytes and 10 gigabytes mobile broadband data usage respectively. Analysts said as netbooks were relatively new, there would have to be increased efforts to educate people about the product, which was conceived by producers not as a replacement but a complementary device. 'Many users are still asking questions about the purpose of a netbook and whether they should have one,' mainland telecommunications analyst Liu Qicheng said. 'For operators, their point of view is that a netbook is just a device for connecting to the internet through their 3G network.'