model stands next to promotional material on China Unicom's 4G services at an industry expo in Beijing. (Photo/China Daily)
China United Network Communications Group Co Ltd said on Tuesday it will spare no efforts to offer better 4G services and products, as the carrier is struggling to catch up with market leader China Mobile Co Ltd.
Wang Xiaochu, chairman of China Unicom, said: "We will channel all of our core resources to ensure a better 4G network, faster Internet speed and better-quality voice calls."
In his first public speech after taking the helm of the country's second-largest telecom carrier in August, Wang said he was determined to upgrade China Unicom's 4G service and products. "This will be our top priority and the most important strategy," Wang added.
China Unicom said it will accelerate steps to expand 4G networks, double the Internet speed, and offer high-definition voice call services by the end of this year.
To attract more subscribers, the company will spend 45 billion yuan ($7 billion) next year on subsidizing users who buy China Unicom's contract phones and 10 billion yuan on retailers who sell these devices.
Xiang Ligang, founder of the telecom industry website cctime.com, said the move marks a significant shift from China Unicom's previous attitude toward 4G services.
"Compared with other carriers, China Unicom has been very reluctant to pour money into 4G networks because its 3G products are so successful and popular among users."
"But now it is finally entering the battle, with all of the resources it has. Though it is a little bit late, China Unicom still has opportunities because the 4G market is evolving rapidly and no one is a dominant player," he said.
The move comes as China Unicom is falling far behind China Mobile in both the construction of 4G towers and the number of 4G users.
According to third-quarter financial reports, China Mobile had more than 1 million 4G communication base stations and 247 million 4G subscribers as of September.
In comparison, China Unicom only has 60 million 4G users and does not disclose how many towers it has built.
Fu Liang, a telecom industry analyst, said it was a smart move for China Unicom to concentrate its resources on 4G because, compared with its rivals, China Unicom has relatively little money and fewer talents.