China United Telecommunications (China Unicom), China's second-largest mobile operator, plans to open up to 3,000 more Internet cafes by the end of this year, according to a report by the official Xinhua news agency.
Not all of the Internet cafes will be operated by China Unicom. The company plans to open between 150 and 200 Internet cafes on its own and will establish an additional 2,500 to 2,800 cafes through franchising agreements, Xinhua said, citing recent comments made by China Unicom Vice President Li Zhengmao. China Unicom currently operates 400 Internet cafes, it said.
As part of China Unicom's plans to expand the number of Internet cafes, the company signed an agreement with online games provider Shanda Networking Development. Under that agreement, Shanda's games, which are among the most popular in China, will be available at China Unicom's Internet cafes, the report said.
Internet cafes are a popular way for millions of Chinese to access the Internet.
In July, the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) estimated that 22 percent of China's 87 million Internet users accessed the Internet from Internet cafes. By comparison, CNNIC found that 20.6 percent of Chinese Internet users accessed the Internet from schools or universities.
While popular among users, Internet cafes have been the object of a government crackdown in recent months.
The Chinese government closed thousands of Internet cafes during the first eight months of this year as part of a campaign to crack down on Internet cafes that admit juveniles, do not have the required licenses to operate and allow Internet users to access or spread "unhealthy information" over the Internet.