China issued long-awaited third-generation mobile phone licences Wednesday, a move that will pour billions of dollars into new networks as consumers buy video- and Internet-enabled handsets.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued licences covering the three major standards in China, Europe and North America, ministry spokesman Wang Lijian told AFP.
Market leader China Mobile received a licence for the Chinese-developed TD-SCDMA standard, he said.
China Unicom got a licence for Europe’s WCDMA standard while China Telecom will handle North America’s CDMA 2000, Wang said. The two international standards require that operators pay royalties to foreign developers.
Third-generation, or 3G, networks enable faster data transmission and advanced services such as wide-area wireless calls, web surfing and video.
The licences are of huge importance as China is the world’s biggest mobile phone market, with more than 634 million subscribers by the end of November.
Analysts said that although it may be years before 3G services become popular in China, issuing the licences will immediately benefit global equipment makers such as Siemens, Ericsson and Nokia, as well as local rivals.