China Unicom, the country’s second-largest wireless operator, said it was looking for a domestic or foreign strategic partner to help develop 3G mobile services on the mainland.

Chang Xiaobing, chairman and chief executive, also said the market should decide which 3G standard it should use. China Telecom made similar remarks earlier this week.

Analysts said their comments suggested that the operators might not want a 3G licence based on China’s homegrown TD-SCDMA system.

China, which has not said when it would award 3G licences, announced earlier this year TD-SCDMA would become the country’s first national standard. Analysts have said it could become a burden on whichever operator was chosen by Beijing to build a network based on TD-SCDMA because the technology is commercially unproven.

Mr Chang said the company, which operates two networks based on CDMA and GSM, has three main thoughts for future 3G development.

“Firstly, we would like to utilise the investments we have made in GSM and CDMA,” he said. “Secondly, we think market demand should decide which standard we should use. We would also like to find a strategic partner either in China or abroad to work with us.”

Mr Chang declined to say whether it was in talks with any company for co-operation on 3G. But he added that the company was also looking for a partner to help it with its loss-making CDMA operation.

The company said 2005 net profits rose 9.7 per cent to Rmb4.93bn ($614m) after sales rose 10.1 per cent to Rmb87.05bn.

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