China Telecom yesterday placed orders for 4 million third-generation (3G) handsets, mostly from domestic mobile phone makers, state media reported. The order is the largest mobile phone purchase in China’s history. It covered 63 different models, and is intended to increase the market penetration of the China Telecom’s recently introduced 3G mobile phone service, which has previously been hampered by the lack of handsets to support the new protocol. China Telecom’s statement said that most of the handsets will be priced between RMB500 and RMB1,000 (US$73.19 to US$146.38), increasing their attractiveness to a wider spectrum of consumers. According to Sino Market Research, China Telecom sold nearly 100,000 3G-enabled handsets in the first five months of 2009, accounting for 55% of all the 3G phones sold in the country at the same time. The provider, which offers CDMA-standard 3G services, posted 2.45 million new mobile subscribers in July following six months of continuous growth. China Mobile, the country’s largest operator, said its subscriber base declined by 466,000 in the same period, while China Unicom’s subscribers increased by 680,000.