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China Unicom, Telecom expand 4G network trials to 40 Chinese cities

BEIJING (Reuters) - China Unicom and China Telecom, the country's No.2 and No.3 mobile carriers, have received government approval to test their 4G high-speed networks in a total of 40 cities, up from 16 previously, they said on Thursday.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which allowed both mobile operators to test their new LTE hybrid network beginning in June, approved 24 additional trial cities including Beijing, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Dongguan and Xiamen.

China Unicom and Telecom's 4G networks are expected to provide a significant boost to their businesses as subscribers sign up for the faster and costlier service.

The carriers also hope to recoup some subscribers lost to China Mobile, the country's largest carrier, which obtained its 4G license in December and already boasts 20 million 4G subscribers.

China Mobile received what amounted to a significant head start in its 4G roll-out because regulators had previously green-lighted its TD-LTE network technology.

Telecom, which had 180 million subscribers in August, and Unicom, which reported 296 million subscribers, both use networks that incorporate both LTE FDD and TD-LTE technology.

Earlier this week China Telecom posted its slowest quarter of net income growth in six quarters and said it would not pay an interim dividend as uncertainty around 4G licenses and regulatory policy ate into its bottom line.

Chairman and Chief Executive Wang Xiaochu, who has stated a target of rolling out 4G to 50 cities by the end of the year, said in the earnings release the company "faced unprecedented uncertainty" due to factors including 4G regulatory policy and value-added tax reform.

(Reporting by Gerry Shih; Additional reporting by Lee Chyen Yee and Bangalore newsroom; Editing by David Holmes and Mark Potter)

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