Information industry minister Wang Xudong told reporters at the ITU Telecom World 2006 conference in Hong Kong Monday that domestic telecom operators could "very soon" be awarded licenses to build 3G (third generation) mobile phone networks, but scotched rumors of consolidation in the industry ahead of the issuance, state media reported. No timetable was provided but Wang said the government was confident a 3G network would be up and running in time for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, although it might not initially cover the entire country. Last week, mainland newspapers reported speculation that Beijing will award licenses to three of the four major service providers no later than the first half of 2007, with China Unicom and China Netcom, the country's second-largest mobile and fixed-line providers, respectively, merged and awarded a single license, the South China Morning Post reported. However, Wang said Beijing was still studying how many 3G licenses it would issue. "We don't have any news on restructuring and we haven't begun looking into the issue," he said.