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What's Up With Chinese 3G?

It's easy to get confused when trying to figure out what's going on -- and especially what might happen in the near future -- in China. Take this week, for example. According to a report in Chinese regional newspaper New Express, an academic that helped prepare a report for the Chinese government says that up to four 3G licenses will be awarded in the coming year, most likely to China Mobile Communications Corp., China Netcom Corp. Ltd., China Telecommunications Corp. (NYSE: CHA), and China Unicom Ltd. This follows the recent announcement from a government official that there is no set timetable for the award of 3G spectrum and that the authorities were waiting for next-generation technology to become more mature. Could that have been a reference to the 3G standard that has been developed in China, TD-SCDMA (Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access), perhaps? Well, the latest on that particular development is that the technology will not be ready until 2004, according to Li Shihe, the CTO of one of the developers, Datang Mobile Communications Equipment Co. Ltd. (its co-developer is Siemens AG). He told Reuters that, although testing of products was currently under way, the technology would not be ready for "large-scale commercial use" until at least 2004. The Chinese government is expected to stipulate that at least one 3G operator should use the home-developed 3G standard, and that the award of the spectrum will be conditional on TD-SCDMA being the adopted technology. But then, maybe we should be expecting the unexpected. Whatever the hell that is! — Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung
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