China Mobile Fast-Tracks TD-LTE
Notable amongst the usual "ifs" and "buts" warning of natural disasters and currency deviations, China Mobile's filing highlights that TD-SCDMA is unproven as a commercial technology. It also says the ecosystem surrounding the technology is immature in comparison with those for the 3G CDMA and W-CDMA technologies used by China Telecom Corp. Ltd. (NYSE: CHA) and China Unicom Ltd. (NYSE: CHU) respectively.
As a result, the filing states, China Mobile has "encountered and may continue to encounter challenges in the deployment of our 3G services, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations as well as our revenues and profitability."
High on the list of limitations TD-SCDMA imposes are the availability, functionality, and price of terminals, and the support for international roaming. The latter particularly impacts China Mobile's high-end and business customers.
China Mobile remains committed to TD-SCDMA, but at the same time it's going all out to develop converged time division duplex (TDD) and frequency division duplex (FDD) products for LTE, the proto-4G wireless technology set to be deployed by mobile operators worldwide.
Developing a simultaneous LTE strategy will enable China Mobile to limit the time it is dependent on TD-SCDMA, and also help it counter the constraints it's currently experiencing as a result of the TD-SCDMA sector's limited ecosystem.
China Mobile chairman and CEO Wang Jianzhou has previously stated that the carrier will look to launch TD-LTE (a TDD version of LTE) in 2010. The Chinese operator is part of a converged FDD/TDD development program with Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) and Verizon Wireless , both of which will likely to be at the forefront of FD-LTE (an FDD version) deployments.
And the carrier's trial schedule for TD-LTE is already underway. An industry insider close to China Mobile's TD-LTE trials, who wished to remain anonymous, tells Light Reading that the first phase of testing, with a single prototype device in a single cell, has been successfully completed, achieving speeds of up to 61Mbit/s for a single radio channel.
All the usual technology supplier suspects are believed to have been involved, including infrastructure vendors Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Datang Telecom Technology Co. Ltd. , Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Nokia Networks , and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763). They also took part in TD-LTE demonstrations with China Mobile at the Mobile World Congress in February. (See TD-LTE Heads For MWC.)
The next phase of testing is set to start in late July or early August, will involve multiple protype devices, and include cell-to-cell handover attempts and some interoperability testing. This will be completed by the end of the year and will be followed by field trials beginning early in 2010.
The source adds that China is on course to be "amongst the first 10 countries to launch [commercial] LTE."
— Catherine Haslam, Asia Editor, Light Reading