UPDATE 1-China Telecom, China Unicom Get 4G FDD-LTE test licences in 16 cities-CCTV Weibo

Fri Jun 27, 2014 5:36am EDT

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BEIJING, June 27 (Reuters) - China Telecom Corp and China Unicom Hong Kong have received high-speed 4G mobile network test licences for the FDD-LTE standard in 16 cities, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said on Friday.

The FDD-LTE standard is preferred by China Telecom and China Unicom to the domestically developed TD-LTE 4G standard. The government-issued licences will allow the two carriers to better compete with China Mobile, which favours the TD-LTE standard, licences for which were issued last December.

China Unicom and China Telecom have had little chance to compete with China Mobile, the world's largest carrier by mobile subscribers, which has for half a year been growing its 4G business.

China Mobile's 8.1 million 4G users only account for a fraction over 1 percent of its total 781 million subscribers, but the number is growing rapidly as the company increases its 4G customers by roughly 70 percent in both April and May.

All three companies are struggling to adapt to changing customer habits, as mobile users abandon formerly lucrative phone calls and SMS in favour of sending voice and text messages over mobile applications like Tencent Holdings Ltd's WeChat. (Reporting by Paul Carsten and Judy Hua; Editing by Matt Driskill)