China Unicom, the smaller of the country’s two mobile operators, beat quarterly earnings forecasts and said its planned 3G business will be profitable within two years. In the six months ended 30 June 2008 net profit doubled to RMB3.77 billion, although revenues rose by only 4% to RMB35.14 billion. The average revenue per user (ARPU) from Unicom’s Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) network fell 10.5% in the first half to RMB51.1 a month amid slower subscriber growth as the management’s focus moved towards GSM in light of its forthcoming unloading of its CDMA operation; Unicom will sell the CDMA network to China Telecom under the sector restructuring aimed at speeding up the roll-out of 3G services in China. At the end of June Unicom claimed 127.6 million GSM customers (an increase of 7.03 million in six months) and 43.17 million CDMA users (up 1.24 million on the start of the year).
Unicom itself is set to buy fixed line operator China Netcom to create a national full service telecoms carrier under Beijing’s blueprint to restructure the country’s telecoms sector into three groups including China Mobile and China Telecom. Unicom Chairman Chang Xiaobing told reporters that if the merger is completed in October and the company secures a 3G licence, it aims to launch W-CDMA services in the third quarter of 2009. Unicom, in which South Korea’s SK Telecom owns a 6.6% stake, has said it will spend RMB100 billion (USD14.6 billion) in the next two years to fund its network rollout, with the bulk going to 3G infrastructure.