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With a 4G service launch imminent in China, 2014 will be a critical year for those that have backed the TDD flavor of LTE.

November 26, 2013

2 Min Read
China Holds Key to LTE TDD

With its enormous scale and economic power, China has the ability to make or break products, services, and dreams when it lends its weight to international standards. That theory is about to be put to the test as we watch the impact that China Mobile has on the global 4G sector.

Having seen its attempt to export a 3G technology (TD-SCDMA) fail, China has backed international standards for 4G: The decision to allocate LTE TDD to China Mobile Ltd., the largest mobile operator in the world with almost 760 million customers (including 176 million 3G users), should be a massive boost for the broader, global acceptance of the TDD flavor of 4G. (See Defining 4G: What the Heck Is LTE TDD?)

We're about to find out just what sort of impact it might have. China Mobile has been frantically building out its 4G network this year -- its target was to deploy more than 207,000 LTE TDD basestations before the end of 2013 -- and now it seems its first 4G services will be offered in Beijing, Guangzhou, and Chongqing, from December 18, with Shanghai to follow later, according to The Shanghai Daily. The operator is to offer its 4G services using three frequency bands -- 1900MHz, 2300MHz, and 2600MHz, depending on the location.

The impact could be substantial, and will certainly be greater than anything China managed on the 3G domain. With smartphones already pervasive and disposable income continuing to grow, China is ripe for 4G service uptake and the operators are preparing for cutting-edge service offerings: China Mobile, for example, recently demonstrated international high-definition video and VoLTE voice calls between its trial networks and VoLTE-enabled networks in South Korea.

If all three of China's major operators have successful 4G launches -- China Telecom Corp. Ltd. and China Unicom Ltd. are both building 4G networks using a mix of FDD and TDD LTE access technologies -- then it's hard to imagine that won't have a knock-on effect on the TDD sector in general, from apps developers to chipset manufacturers to device designers and network equipment suppliers. That, in turn, could have a real impact in markets such as India, Japan, Russia, and, of course, the US. (See Sprint Sparks Up Vendors for Faster 4G LTE and Reliance Jio Selects 4G Vendors.)

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— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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