Telecom & Wireless

Unicom Looking Overseas

China Unicom has said it is ready to expand internationally with its niche technology: CDMA1x.

Chairman and chief executive Wang Jianzhou said a series of discussions is under way with various European and South East Asia mobile operators, that may result in China Unicom either taking a stake in a foreign carrier, or exporting its know-how and experience in CDMA1x to these carriers. These plans point to one ultimate ambition for the 10-year old mobile carrier–to standardize the various specifications of the CDMA technology worldwide, so that CDMA1x can proliferate and compete head-on with European-centric, rival GSM technology.

China Unicom, which had 102.5 million subscribers in China in June, offers both CDMA and GSM services. Such dual-standard operation has long been a concern for some analysts, who believe operating two totally different standards would lead to inefficient resources management, and thus, lower return on equity. Unswayed by such concerns, China Unicom said it has recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Indosat, Indonesia's leading telecoms company, on co-operating on standardizing CDMA specification, and is due to sign another with Malaysia's Telkom.

Meanwhile, Spain Telefonica Moviles has already told Unicom management that it is interested in borrowing Unicom's experience in CDMA1x to expand into Latin America. And in October, China Unicom will invite various Latin American and US operators and handset vendors to Beijing to discuss forming a CDMA handset procurement alliance. The idea is to promote CDMA1x technology and, possibly, aggregate their order volume for CDMA1x handsets to manufacturers in hope of getting better deals.

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