China Unicom expects to be granted a license to use the European-developed WCDMA third-generation (3G) standard for its high-speed wireless network on the mainland, the Financial Times reported. WCDMA is the most widespread of the 3G technologies, and could give the company an edge against its larger competitor China Mobile, which is using the still-immature Chinese-developed TD-SCDMA standard. Unicom aims to start 3G services by the third quarter of 2009 and expects these services to turn a profit two years after launch. The network upgrades represent an investment of US$15 billion. Unicom saw its profits for the first six months of 2008 more than double to US$642 million. The company added 7 million new subscribers during the period to bring its total customer base to 127.6 million. Fixed-line operator China Netcom, which is in the process of merging with Unicom, reported first-half net profit of US$933.5 million, down 5.2% from the same period last year. Shareholders are due to vote on the Unicom-Netcom merger – which is likely to be carried out through a US$56.3 billion share swap – on September 16.
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