Chinese company to recruit millions more Internet users
By staff
They may be touchy where they let the people surf but China intends to massively expand its internet services and the number of users.

China Netcom Communications Corporation vowed Thursday to beef up its service and corporate reform to sharpen its competitive edge.

'That would be the most effective way to enable us to be an international telecom operators in the next three to five years,' said Xi Guohua, president of China Netcom, yesterday at its year-end conference in Beijing.

The firm estimates that by the end of December, the total number of fixed line telephone subscribers will reach 78.2 million, with 10.67 million recruited this year alone. The number of switchboards is forecast to reach 96.26 million.

'The year 2003 is a key year for us as we adopt a package of new measures to stimulate and sustain our development,' Xi said.

The company expects to recruit 11 million fixed line telephone subscribers, 10.32 million Internet users and 1.16 million broadband users next year.

'More new business through innovation, such as upgrading our network speed, will be our focus next year,' he said.

Xi said the corporation had already developed a nationwide network to take on its major rival, China Telecom, in southern China.

China Netcom has so far established eight subsidiaries in the south.

China Netcom has also become an official member of the International Telecom Union and Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre this year.

China Netcom on Wednesday established an institute to support its research and development programme, making it only the second telecom operator in China with its own research organization.

China Netcom was formed on May 16 from 10 provincial branches of the former China Telecom and two independent carriers, China Network Communications Co Ltd and Jitong Communications.

In response, China Telecom withdrew to the south region and became the dominant fixed-line telecom carrier in 21 southern provinces.

However, Xi revealed that some parts of the plan to split the market between China Netcom and China Telecom were yet to be finalized. 'We hope that all the unresolved issues will be tackled by the end of this year,' he said, without further explanation.

In an early interview with China Daily, Xi said his company was cautious about going public at present.

There was still no set timetable for its listing, Xi told China Daily Thursday.

'We will not rush to the overseas capital market before it is fully prepared and the environment is more friendly for telecom shares,' Xi said.

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