3G : Report: Chinese 3G standard to be ready by 2005

China’s homegrown third-generation (3G) mobile technology, Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access (TD-SCDMA), will be ready for commercial deployment during the middle of 2005, according to a Chinese official quoted by the official China Daily newspaper.

A complete product lineup of TD-SCDMA will be ready for commercial use by next June, Zhang Qi, director general of the Ministry of Information Industry’s (MII’s) Department of Electronics and Information Product Administration, said in the report.

Zhang’s comments came on Tuesday at a signing ceremony for a memorandum of understanding between Nortel Networks Ltd. and China Putian Corp., a Chinese telecommunications equipment maker, the China Daily said.

Under the terms of that agreement, Nortel Networks and Putian will cooperate on the research, development and manufacture of 3G equipment based on TD-SCDMA and Wideband CDMA (W-CDMA), another 3G technology standard, Nortel said in a statement. The agreement builds on work done by the two companies in field trials of TD-SCDMA networks in China, it said.

China has not formally laid down a clear timeframe for when 3G licenses will be issued in the country and Zhang’s comments, as reported by the China Daily, did not clarify when the government might move in this direction. However, the Chinese government has hinted in the past that 3G licenses could be issued later this year or in early 2005.

Some Chinese observers have speculated that China will not issue 3G licenses until TD-SCDMA is ready for commercial deployment. If that is the case, Zhang’s comments indicate this requirement will have been met by the middle of next year. But others have discounted a relationship between when TD-SCDMA will be ready for commercial deployment and when China will issue 3G licenses, citing marginal commercial prospects for TD-SCDMA.

Rather than signalling the timeframe for China to issue 3G licenses or for operators to roll out commercial 3G services, Zhang’s comments were seen by one analyst, as an attempt by the Chinese government to build up industry momentum for TD-SCDMA.

“It was a breath of trying to blow wind in the sails of TD-SCDMA; it was more defensive than anything,” said Duncan Clark, managing director of telecommunications consultancy BDA China Ltd.

Chinese officials have stated that a decision on the timing for the issue of 3G licenses would be based on 3G deployments in other countries around the world and the maturity of 3G technology, Clark said. However, with a growing number of 3G deployments now taking place, pressure has been growing for the Chinese to issue 3G licenses, he said.

Clark predicted that China could issue 3G licenses no earlier than September of this year.

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