Unicom offers dual-mode option
China United Telecommunications Corporation (China Unicom), the country's second-largest mobile operator yesterday officially announced its dual-mode mobile phone service, which displays several differences from its rival China Mobile's service.
"We are very confident about the new service as the dual-mode handset provides a new communications experience for both our CDMA and GSM subscribers," said Wang Jianzhou, president of China Unicom.
Under the brand name of "World Wind," the dual-mode mobile phone service supporting both GSM and CDMA (code division multiple access) networks enables users to transfer from GSM and CDMA networks automatically.
China Unicom is only telecom operator that runs the two different networks.
"The birth of dual-mode phones offers a new choice for Chinese customers applying for wireless telecommunications service," Wang said. The service will be a key strategy for the company to ensure sustained development of the two networks and to make the two more complementary.
Analysts say they believe that the new service will be an effective way for China Unicom to compete against China Mobile, which commands about two-thirds of the country's mobile subscribers.
Yu Yingtao, deputy general manager of China Unicom's Marketing Department, said the sales of dual mode handsets will be launched simultaneously today across China.
To increase the sales of the dual-mode handset, China Unicom has worked out three promotion packages for its subscribers, he said.
Users within a province will be charged only for local calls and there will be no charges for long distance calls or roaming services between different cities within a province.
The fees for such local calls, which are different between provinces, will be 20 or 30 per cent higher compared to current local call charges.
"For business people who travel a lot within a province, the package will be very attractive," Yu said.
Also, subscribers can obtain dual-mode handsets via leasing services.
By depositing almost twice the price of the handsets as telecommunications fees, subscribers are able to get a dual-mode handset for free.
In areas such as Gansu Province and the Xinjiang Uygur and Ningxia Hui autonomous regions, the required prepaid telecommunications fee will be lower, but no less than 1.5 times the handset price.
Another way to promote the sales is through handset subsidies, which means that paying a comparatively higher price to buy the handsets, subscribers can get larger subsidies from China Unicom for telecommunications fees that occur in the future.
According to Yu, there are three brands of dual-mode handsets available on the market manufactured by Motorola, LG and Samsung.
The prices for the three handsets are: 4,780 yuan (US$575.90) for MotoA860, 4,680 yuan (US$563.80) for LGW800 and 4,580 yuan (US$551.80) for Samsung's SCH-W109.
"In the first batch, there are a total of 400,000 handsets for sale," Yu said.
The dual-mode handsets support all China Unicom's data services, says Zhou Xiaoping, deputy general manager of China Unicom's Value-added Service Business Department. "We believe the data business will get a strong shot in the arm with the launch of the dual mode handset," she said.
The launch of the dual-mode phone is part of China Unicom's effort to establish new revenue and profit generators, analysts said.
They say they believe the dual-mode solution will be a powerful revenue generator this year as the Chinese Government is unlikely to release 3G licences until next year.
To attract more subscribers, Zhou said, the company will further boost value-added services based on its CDMA 1X networks.
"We will kick off more personalized services and solutions for different industries," she said.
For the overseas market, China Unicom said that the US-based Verizon Wireless is also starting a dual-mode handset service.
International roaming has turned out to be one of the most promising selling points for the service as there are inconsistent telecommunications standards worldwide.
In other words, the service does not only work on both GSM and CDMA mobile networks in China but also operates in other countries.