Zuo Xunsheng, China Netcom chief, on Tuesday said he expected China to issue third-generation mobile licences as early as the first quarter of 2007.

He reiterated that Netcom would definitely receive a 3G licence to expand into mobile telephony.

“We will get a licence, perhaps next year’s first quarter,” said Mr Zuo.

His comments sent the company’s shares in Hong Kong up 8.5 per cent to HK$16.16. Rival China Telecom’s shares surged 15.6 per cent to HK$4.01 on expectations that it would also receive a 3G licence.

China Telecom executives said on Tuesday they expected the 3G permits to be awarded “soon”.

China’s regulators have never outlined their plans for 3G, but have been seen as delaying the issue of licences in order to give the Beijing-backed TD-SCDMA technology time to mature.

At the ITU Telecom World conference in Hong Kong this week, industry executives from both Chinese and foreign network equipment makers
said TD-SCDMA was ready for commercial use.

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