I have some knowledge of 3G activities in China through NMS’s involvement with mobile video projects for various operators and equipment providers in China. But, as I’m never sure exactly what’s subject to non-disclosure agreements, I’ve remained mum. However yesterday, John Sun of Datang Mobile Communications Equipment gave a presentation at Connect 2007 in Guilin in which he talked publicly about the current “large scale” application trials, so there are some things I can discuss.
If you haven’t been following 3G in detail, there are three major standards. They're all based on code division multiple access (CDMA) modulation, but they are otherwise incompatible. Their common names are:
- CDMA 2000 in various forms: 1xRTT, EV-DO, Rev A, Rev B, …
- 3GSM a.k.a. UMTS in various forms: W-CDMA, HSDPA, HSUPA, HSPA+, …
- TD-SCDMA, for now, is a China-only development
CDMA 2000 has been the leader in available bandwidth, at least until recently, and 3GSM is the clear market share leader. Meanwhile, TD-SCDMA remains in trial. In fact, outside of China, TD-SCDMA is generally dismissed as a negotiating ploy by China to obtain acceptable patent cross licensing agreements with Qualcomm, Ericsson and the like.
But I haven't seen any discussion in English of the extent to which TD-SCDMA is already being deployed in China. True, China has not assigned any 3G licenses, but under the name “application trials,” experimental TD-SCDMA networks began running in four cities in 2005. It took longer than expected to get the system running, however, since April 2007, these “trials” have been extended to ten cities and have been substantially enlarged to what I might call “deployment scale.” Here are the cities:
China Mobile has TD-SCDMA networks in eight cities (in red on the map). China Netcom has a single TD-SCDMA network in Qingdao and China Telecom has a TD-SCDMA network in Baoding. Interestingly enough, SKT is apparently running a trial in Korea. I hadn't heard of that trial prior to John Sun's presentation and I don't t have further details on what's going on with TD-SCDMA in Korea.
Handsets support TD-SCDMA/ GSM/ GPRS so their are no gaps in voice coverage. They also support 3G video telephony (3G-324M). Frequency bands are 1880–1920 MHz and 2010–2025 MHz and all spectrum is available for either direction as TD-SCDMA uses TDD (which alternately transmits & receives on the same frequency).
China has committed to offering 3G mobile telephony in the 2008 Olympic cities. I assume that will be W-CDMA if it's to be of any use to foreign visitors, however, it's also clear that TD-SCDMA service will be available in the Olympic cities. Everyone wonders when 3G licenses will finally be awarded, but licenses are just a political act. Construction of 3G networks is the time consuming part and that is clearly underway.