A tenfold increase in mainline telecommunications capacity is forecast for China by 1995 if all planned expansion is completed on time.
Twenty-two construction or expansion projects in optical fiber cables are under way, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications said Monday. They aim to link all provincial capitals and municipalities except those in Tibet within five years.The key is 20,000 miles of fiber-optic cables, one-and-a-half times China's current total, and 400,000 other lines. Fiber optics use light pulses through microscopic strands of glass to carry many more conversations or data streams than copper wire.
China has lagged in telecommunications, partly because of its size - about the same as the United States and Canada - and partly because it lacked the technology. Much of the latter now is being imported and is high on the planners' agenda.
Telephones are very expensive and thus not common outside big cities and government offices. Even where they are, reliability remains low.
A ministry survey last December found only one of 12 long-distance calls made between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. on any given day was completed. This is attributed to a surge in installations of inner city phones adding to congestion on trunk lines.
The current five-year program sees Beijing as the hub of a national fiber- optic network. It will be supplemented by 17 microwave links and a score of satellite ground stations.
Among the main routes are the Beijing-Northeast sector. This nearly 3,000 miles of fiber optics will connect the capital with the Port of Tianjin and nearby Tangshan and the northeastern industrial provinces.
Shanghai, the largest industrial city and chief port, will be linked to Fuzhou in southeastern Fujian province and Guangzhou in southern Guangdong. Fujian is a magnet for Taiwan investment, while Guangdong thrives by abutting Hong Kong.
Another fiber-optic line is planned between Beijing and Guangzhou via Wuhan, an industrial center about midway between them.
The business volume of telecommunications is projected to grow at an annual rate of 28 percent between 1991 and 1995, and 20 percent a year through the end of the decade.
Between 1986 and 1990, China used more than $1 billion in overseas loans to import program-controlled telephone exchanges with capacity for 3 million lines, official figures show.
The number of telephones is expected to reach 31 million by 1995 and 65 million by the year 2000. Its target of 50 phones per 1,000 people by the end of the decade still would leave it well down in the world rankings.