Mobile operator China Unicom said it expects to launch its third-generation (3G) mobile services in 55 cities in the first half of 2009, Reuters reported. It expects to expand service to 280 cities by the end of the year. The company’s total capital expenditure for the launch is estimated at US$8.78 billion. Unicom Chairman Chang Xiaobing said he expects the company’s 3G service to become profitable next year. But Unicom’s Executive Director Zuo Xunsheng said the addition of 3G services to the company’s offerings could hurt the profit margins of its mobile and fixed line divisions. Competitor China Mobile recently announced plans to spend US$8.6 billion on building 3G base stations.