China’s 3G system to grow after Olympics

BEIJING – China’s 3G (third generation telephony) system will expand service to 10 cities after August’s Olympic Games, the nation’s minister of science and technology said.

“TD-SCDMA (Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access) will commence use in 10 big cities after the Olympics,” Wan Gang said at a press conference in Beijing last week. Wan did not provide details such as which cities, a timetable or the scale of the rollout.

Last week, Samsung gave the Beijing Organizing Committee for the summer Olympics 15,000 TD-SCDMA handsets, allowing China to proclaim that it would offer 3G service, via China Mobile, during the Games. However, TD-SCDMA does not support other 3G formats, so visitors with 3G phones from Japan, Korea and European countries will not be able to use their handsets in Beijing.

As China’s homegrown 3G technology, TD-SCDMA began its latest round of trials in April, in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Qinhuangdao, Shenyang and Xiamen, with a total of 20,000 users.

China Mobile, which is offering the service and operating the trial, did not say how long it would last. Although trials of TD-SCDMA began in 2005, a commercial rollout will still not ready by August.

China has also not issued 3G licenses, although Chinese telecom regulators have hinted at impending licensing for at least two years. China Mobile seems a lock given its prominence in the testing process. China Mobile is both China’s and the world’s largest mobile operator.

It’s also possible that China could skip 3G altogether, having already held 4G trials in 2007.

Despite Wan’s remarks, his Ministry of Science and Technology does not oversee telecommunications. That falls to the newly-created Industry and Information Ministry, a successor to the previous Ministry of Information Industry.

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