It looks like China’s wireless broadband space is about to get a whole lot hotter — literally. Just a month after China Mobile (HKEx: 941; NYSE: CHL) announced a campaign to have 1 million hot spots nationwide within three years (previous post), the China Daily is reporting rival China Telecom (HKEx: 728; NYSE: CHT) has announced a similar plan to better serve the nation’s growing legions of wireless Web surfers. I previously called the China Mobile plan misguided, and I think the same is almost true for China Telecom. I say “almost”, because with China Telecom the plan makes a little more sense. Whereas China Mobile has little or no experience in this space, China Telecom has become a broadband specialist over the last few years through its fixed-line broadband offering, so presumably has more know-how in the area, both in terms of infrastructure and also in the equally important field of marketing. I still believe that most wireless broadband subscribers would rather get their service through 3G that’s available everywhere instead of via wi-fi that’s only available in select hot spots. But if anyone has a chance at succeeding in a national wi-fi network, I would give China Telecom the better odds over China Mobile.
Bottom line: I’m giving a reserved thumbs-up to China Telecom’s new wi-fi broadband campaign, but still believe it may be chasing a dead-end technology.
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