Chinese telco’s Zong unit plans to extend 3G and 4G network coverage.

China Mobile will invest US$200 million in its Pakistani operation this year in order to add 3G and 4G mobile sites to its network.

The Chinese telco, which operates in Pakistan as Zong, issued a statement confirming the investment, according to Pakistani media outlet The News International.

Zong aims to increase the number of 3G and 4G sites on its network to 10,500 by the end of 2017, it said. The expansion will see it extend 4G coverage to rural as well as urban areas. As it stands, Zong’s 4G network covers 300 cities with customers numbering 2 million.

This year’s network spend comes on top of the $3 billion the operator has invested in Pakistan to date, the paper said.

Zong became Pakistan’s first licensed 4G operator almost three years ago when it 1800-MHz spectrum earmarked for the latest generation of mobile services. 4G services are now available in the market from a number of players though.

And China Mobile is not the only operator spending heavily in Pakistan.

Vimpelcom in July confirmed to Total Telecom that it will invest $1 billion in the market over five years.

The announcement came shortly after the telco group completed the merger of its Pakistani operation Mobilink with smaller player Warid Telecom.

Mobilink and Warid Telecom lead the market with a combined 51.5 million customers as of the end of last year, according to the latest figures from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.

Telenor, which launched its 4G service in Pakistan last summer, is the second largest player with 39.5 million at the same date, while Zong comes in third with 26.9 million. Pakistan Telecommunications Company Ltd’s (PTCL’s) mobile arm Ufone trails with 18.6 million.