China’s 3G network attracts 50 handset models

Vendors including Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics showed off over 50 mobile phones being readied for the launch of China’s 3G (third-generation mobile telecommunications) network, an important step in ensuring a smooth launch of mobile services next year.

Chinese people will be able to choose from dozens of styles, including clam-shell designs, sliders, and large-screen handsets similar to the iPhone. Many of the handsets on display at the GSM Associations’ Mobile Asia Congress in Macau are already undergoing testing on China’s home grown 3G technology, called TD-SCDMA (Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access).

With the technology, users can search the Internet and make video calls on a mobile phone. TD-SCDMA works in much the same way as competing 3G technologies such as WCDMA (Wideband CDMA) and CDMA2000, which are used in other parts of the world such as Japan, Europe and North America. But China opted for its own 3G standard as a way to increase its technology prowess and reduce its dependence on foreign technology.

The rush to develop and deploy TD-SCDMA networks in China has been hastened by a desire among officials to show off Chinese technology at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, which begin next August. To that end, China’s largest mobile phone network operator, China Mobile, has pledged to have its 3G network ready in 10 major Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, by the time the Games open.

Handsets are a key component of the plan.

Zhejiang Holley Communications (Holley Comm) was showing off some of the most attractive TD-SCDMA handsets. The company’s H8350 resembles the iPhone with its big, 2.8-inch screen, while the company’s other handset was a slider, the H9250.

Both handsets are undergoing testing by network operators, including China Mobile, said Zhang Xinruo, senior business development manager at Holley Comm.

Yulong Computer’s TD-SCDMA handset, the CoolPad 6260, boasts a 3-inch touch screen running a version of Microsoft Corp.’s Windows CE. The mobile phone is made for video calling with two cameras, with the extra camera for pictures. It has two SIM (subscriber identity module) card slots as well, so users can use a TD-SCDMA and a GSM card inside their phone at the same time.

The CoolPad 6260 is already being tested by China Mobile and is expected out by the end of the first quarter, said You Shuangting, assistant to the sales manager at Yulong.

Huawei Technologies had three TD-SCDMA mobile phones on display at the exhibition, as well as a data card to connect laptop PCs to the TD-SCDMA network for speedy Internet use. The S330 and S220 mobile phones are both currently in testing, said Jerry Huang, product manager at Huawei. The third handset, the S660, which boasts a 2.4-inch screen and 2.3-megapixel camera, is still under development.

Datang Mobile Communications also showed off a TD-SCDMA data card for laptops and its first handset for the network, the Pecker, which is already in testing.

Samsung showed off a TD-SCDMA handset, the SGH-T578H model, able to work on several standards, including GSM (Global System for Mobile Telecommunications), GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for Global Evolution) and HSDPA (high speed data packet access).

It’s important for the phone to work with multiple technologies because most mobile phone companies in China haven’t announced plans for their networks. The country hasn’t even issued 3G licenses yet, nor said when an auction might be held.

Samsung actually displayed two TD-SCDMA-capable handsets at the show, but no information was available on the second mobile phone. Samsung’s largest South Korean rival, LG Electronics, debuted its first TD-SCDMA handset at the show as well, the KD876, which has a 2.4-inch screen that dominates the phone and works on 900/1800/1900/2100 MHz GSM frequencies. It carries a 3-megapixel camera and a built in digital music player.

A display case at the TD-SCDMA Industry Alliance’s exhibition booth showed TD-SCDMA handsets from dozens of other companies, including Lenovo Mobile Communications, BenQ, Inventec Appliances, UTStarcom, and Haier.

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