I posted sometime back about China Mobile standards ready to battle the 3G standards. I read this interesting piece in The IET Magazine:
The wait is over for millions of Chinese mobile phone users. Following several years of delays, the government has finally issued the licences that were necessary for the introduction of third-generation cellular services in the country.
As ordered by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, each of the nation’s three main operators will have to build and operate a network based on one of the three different standards that were vying for a share of the world’s largest cellular market.
China Mobile (by far the dominant carrier with over 460 million subscribers) will operate on TD-SCDMA, the 3G technology that was developed entirely in the People’s Republic by the Chinese Academy of Telecommunications Technology in collaboration with Datang and Siemens. China Telecom will run on W-CDMA, while China Unicom gets CDMA2000.
Considering how immature TD-SCDMA technology still is - and how discouraging its build-up trials have proved - China Mobile seems to have landed the worst possible deal.
Then again, that was the whole idea of this so-called reorganisation of the country’s telecoms industry. Let the incumbent cellco work on the many problems that will have to be ironed out before TD-SCDMA can be considered a credible 3G alternative, and that should give the two smaller operators enough time to catch up by taking advantage of proven technologies and an established pool of equipment suppliers.
The Chinese government wants a more balanced, more competitive telecoms market, and this should help do the trick. But the move is also likely to have some strange consequences in the relationship between mobile operators and phone makers.
China Mobile faces two different handset-related challenges when it comes to 3G. The first one is qualitative: existing TD-SCDMA phones are technically inferior to those that subscribers have been using in the rest of the world for well over eight years now. The second is quantitative: only 40 or so TD-SCDMA models exist, while China Mobile says it will need several hundred.
So the company is resorting to some unprecedented behaviour for a cellular operator. At the last Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Wang Jianzhou, the chairman of China Mobile, met with a group of handset vendors (including Nokia, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and some of the Chinese manufacturers) and offered to pay them part of the R&D costs of developing better TD-SCDMA products.
Handset makers have rarely witnessed such generous attitudes from an operator. Even rarer is the fact that the offer is coming from what is now the world’s largest operator. Add to that the unfavourable financial conditions most of these OEMs are enduring and you could safely assume they’ll go and see what they can do to help China Mobile.