China Telecom Corp Ltd said on Tuesday that it will raise the number of WiFi hotspots to 1 million by the end of 2012 to meet rising demand for mobile Internet.
The plan is part of China Telecom's February campaign to promote broadband in the domestic market for the next three years. The campaign aims to provide subscribers with Web access to third-generation (3G) networks and WiFi wireless networks.
Sun Minkang, deputy general manager of China Telecom Corp, said the company wants to expand WiFi coverage to public areas that have a high population density such as office buildings, airports and coffee bars.
"In addition, we have negotiated with Air China and Hainan Airlines, as we hope to launch the first in-flight Internet surfing service in China this year," said He Zhiqiang, marketing director of China Telecom Corp.
The current number of China Telecom WiFi hotspots is 300,000, and most of them are located in South China, He said. The company plans to roll out an additional 400,000 WiFi hotspots this year and these are expected to reach a target of 1 million next year.
China's three telecom carriers have adopted an aggressive attitude towards WiFi network deployment this year. Analysts said surging data traffic in smartphones forces telecom companies to look for ways to relieve pressure on their 3G networks.
Wang Jianzhou, chairman of China Mobile Communications Corp, the parent company of Hong Kong-listed China Mobile Ltd, said the company planned to increase its WiFi hotspots to 1 million by 2013.
China Unicom Ltd launched large-scale procurement of WiFi equipment last October.
"The rapid development of mobile Internet needs collective support from 2G, 3G, 4G and WiFi networks," said Kan Kaili, a professor at Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications. He pointed out that the WiFi broadband network has many advantages, such as a fast speed and low costs.
WiFi network construction in China will introduce business opportunities worth 25 billion yuan ($3.85 billion) to 30 billion yuan, a Ping An Securities report showed. "The year 2011 could be the year for Chinese telecom operators to race for WiFi hotspots construction," Li Zhongzhi, an analyst with Ping An Securities, said.
By the end of March, the number of 3G users in China reached 61.9 million, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
China Telecom had 16.37 million 3G users, trailing behind China Mobile's 26.99 million and China Unicom's 18.54 million.


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