China Pumps $15B Into 3G

China's three big carriers had invested 102 billion Yuan Renminbi (US$14.94 billion) in their 3G rollouts during the first three quarters of 2009, and had attracted nearly 10 million 3G customers between them by the end of October, according to data released by the country's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and reported by national news agency Xinhua.

The Ministry had previously estimated that China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL), China Telecom Corp. Ltd. (NYSE: CHA), and China Unicom Ltd. (NYSE: CHU) would, between them, invest RMB143.5 billion ($21 billion) in their 3G networks this year.

China Mobile announced Monday that it ended November with 518 million customers, including nearly 3 million 3G customers. The operator, which had deployed 46,000 3G base stations based on China's home-grown TD-SCDMA 3G technology by the end of October, is already checking out a move to Long Term Evolution (LTE). (See APAC Operators Commit to LTE, China Mobile Swaps Out Datang 3G Kit, and China Mobile Fast-Tracks TD-LTE .)

China Mobile is expected to continue to dominate the domestic telecom services market for the next five years, according to projections from Pyramid Research . (See China Mobile to Retain Revenues Crown.)

China Unicom ended the same month with 146 million mobile customers, of which nearly 2 million were 3G subscribers, and 105 million fixed line users. The MIIT data showed that Unicom, which is rolling out a 3G femtocell services, had deployed 80,000 WCDMA-based 3G base stations by the end of October. (See China Unicom Picks Huawei Femtos, Unicom Deploys ZTE's Green 3G, and Unicom Enters Third Phase.)

China Telecom ended November with 53 million mobile customers, but didn't break out its 3G numbers. It also has 191 million fixed-line users. According to the MIIT, the carrier had deployed 117,000 CDMA2000-based 3G base stations by the end of October. (See China Telecom Trials AlcaLu and China Telecom Offers 3G Video.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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