China orders phone firms to share networks

Regulators have ordered China's phone companies to share their networks amid an industry restructuring that is to clear the way for introduction of 3G service, an Associated Press report said.

The Associated Press report said the measure is meant to hold down costs and avoid duplication as carriers roll out 3G service, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced.

The rollout of 3G is expected to trigger billions of dollars in orders to foreign equipment suppliers as carriers upgrade networks, the report said.

Regulators have delayed issuing 3G licenses while they restructure state-owned carriers into three groups, each with mobile and fixed-line service, in an effort to spur competition and innovation.

'Existing telecom towers and lines must be open to rivals,' the telecoms ministry said in a statement. 'If conditions are appropriate, operators should join together in building new base stations and transmission lines.'

It gave no details of how costs or capacity would be shared.