China Unicom is Chinaâ€™s second largest mobile phone and telecommunications provider, second only to China Mobile. The company was established in 1994 to bring competition to a monopoly market dominated by China Mobile Communications. Through China Unicom Telecommunications Ltd the company provides mobile phone services to thirty provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in China. As well as nationwide domestic and international long distance calls and internet services.
As of the end of 2006 China Unicom was the third largest mobile telecommunications provider in the world in terms of subscribers. In total the company had 142,366 million mobile phone users. China Mobile is the only mobile phone provider in China with a higher number of subscribers, approximately 300 million. This also makes China Mobile the largest mobile services provider in the world.
The second largest broadband optical fibre transmission network in China was constructed by China Unicom. It was developed as a shared platform to support the operations of international and domestic long distance calls, data, the internet and the mobile phone business.
Slightly more than half of China Unicom is held by state-owned China Unicom Group (approx. 52%). The remainder of the company is traded openly on the Shenzhen, Hong Kong and New York stock exchanges. Despite being founded in 1994 China Unicom was not listed on the New York stock exchange and the Hong Kong stock exchange until June 2000. Since going public the company has experienced continuous growth from a steadily increasing number of mobile phone subscribers and through new ventures and acquisitions.
On 28th June 2007 China Unicom started trials that will last until September for a new music download service. The service will provide mobile phone users the chance to download music from 23 record companies in an attempt to elevate sales and cut back on piracy. The majority of mobile phone providers are exploring new ways to increase revenue due to the fall in mobile phone charges as a result of fierce competition between providers and the emergence of far cheaper alternatives such as internet based communications software such as â€˜Skypeâ€™.