The take-up of China Unicom’s Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) network in 2002 is likely to fall well short of the company’s target of 7m-8m new subscribers, said telecoms analysts. UBS Warburg forecast that this year’s subscriber numbers might be as low as 2.4m, following Unicom’s announcement that it had signed up 120,000 users in the five weeks since the service was launched on January 8. Bancorp Piper Jaffray predicted 3m users for 2002.
Unicom spent US$2.9bn on building a CDMA network last year. It believes the high voice and data transmission quality of the service will help it to lure high-end customers from its rival China Mobile. So far it has blamed the slow take-up on the widespread unavailability and high price of the phones. China Unicom’s president Wang Jianzhou said his company would buy 500,000 CDMA phones to resolve the problem.
The president of Haier Group, one of the companies licensed to make the phones, cast doubt on the short-term demand for CDMA phones. Yang Mianmian said Haier had so far only made “several hundred” CDMA phones and additional production would depend on the receipt of purchase orders.