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Number of 3G subscribers to grow quickly in China

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The number of 3G (third-generation) mobile subscribers is expected to grow quickly in China, despite getting off to a relatively slow start, according to a telecommunications research firm in Beijing.

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China will have 5.5 million 3G subscribers within the first 12 months that these services are available, according to Norson (Hong Kong) Information Technology Ltd., in Beijing. That number will grow quickly, rising to 21.9 million by the end of the second year and hitting 84.2 million by the end of the third year, Norson said.

The uptake of 3G services by subscribers is expected to closely follow the rate of adoption for 2G services, Norson said.

China is the world's largest market for mobile services, with more than 404 million subscribers at the end of February, according to China's Ministry of Information Industry.

For now, these subscribers must be content with 2G (second-generation) mobile services, such as GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access), or slightly faster offerings, like GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and CDMA2000 1X.

The Chinese government has not said when it plans to issue 3G licenses. However, equipment vendors and other observers expect that to happen sometime later this year.

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