101: TD-SCDMA – the 3G standard backed by China’s CATT

Why Apple has suddenly become interested in this technology

The recent [October 2013] revelation that Apple might be looking to curry favour with China Mobile (the world’s largest mobile network operator (MNO)) has renewed interest in a 3G technology called TD-SCDMA. It standards for Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access but the crucial point is that TD-SCDMA was championed by CATT (China Academy of Telecommunications Technology). Hence it is utilised by China Mobile which first tested TD-SCDMA based networks in eight cities – including Beijing and Shanghai – between April and July 2008. This was just in time for the 2008 Olympic Games which began on August 8th 2008 in China. The rumour is that Apple might produce a TD-SCDMA handset by using Qualcomm chips.

Initially, China Mobile ordered TD-SCDMA mobile phones from two Chinese manufacturers: – ZTE and Lenovo along with Korea’s LG and Samsung.

Up to August 2012, according to the TD Forum (formerly the TD-SCDMA Forum) there were at least 607 TD-SCDMA enabled handsets in operation. See here.

The move to use the technology at the 2008 Olympic Games helped to establish China’s home-grown TD-SCDMA standard on par with the likes of rival 3G technologies.

They are: -W-CDMA (as used by GSM operators like AT&T) and CDMA2000 (as used by cdmaOne operators like Verizon).

Although the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) had accepted UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System)  - pushed by Europe and Japan, as an official standard for 3G (IMT-2000), it also adopted the two other standards – namely CDMA2000 and TD-SCDMA.

W-CDMA (Wideband CDMA) is the 3G technology behind UMTS.

By contrast TD-SCDMA (Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access) successfully combined two cellular technologies: – an advanced TDMA system with an adaptive CDMA component.

The crucial point, however, is that TD-SCDMA offers an easy way of upgrading existing GSM (2G) networks to more advanced 3G mobile networks and services.

When TD-SCDMA base stations are installed in an existing GSM system, for example, the radio network layout can be retained and existing transmission links can be reused.

What is frequently overlooked is that one of the main backers for TD-SCDMA was actually Europe’s Siemens.

Nokia and Siemens then merged their respective operations into Nokia Siemens Networks – the cellular infrastructure supplier – which is currently totally owned by Nokia.

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One Response to 101: TD-SCDMA – the 3G standard backed by China’s CATT

  1. Pingback: Rajeev Suri named new Nokia CEO moving up from NSNGoMo News

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