According to a MediaPost survey of mobile executives, the emergence of 4G networks will be one of the biggest news stories of 2011. So it’s worth taking note that China Mobile has launched a 6-city trial of it’s own version of LTE.
What’s the story here?
China Mobile has developed a slightly different version of LTE to everyone else – one that might actually outperform other LTE networks. Called TD-LTE, it is so similar to LTE that it can be accessed by the same chipset. It runs across different bands of the wireless spectrum. The TDD spectrum, which is where TD-LTE would be carried, is generally cheaper to access and has much less traffic on it already. It also uploads and downloads data over a single channel, instead of maintaining two separate channels like LTE – it simply boosts the capacity of either channel depending on demand.
There has been a lot of interest in the technology globally. Nokia has even announced that it will be developing handsets that run on the networks specifically for China Mobile.
What’s the news?
China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has given China Mobile the go-ahead to roll-out TD-LTE trial networks in six Chinese cities. There hasn’t been a timescale for this announced yet, but the idea behind the trial is to test if TD-LTE networks will actually be economically viable.
What we think?
I’ll be interested to see how this pans out for China Mobile. While there’s a lot of excitement about 4G, China isn’t really the best country to test it out in. China Mobile may have over half a billion customers, but a massive 560 million of them are on 2G networks. Only 18.8 million China Mobile subscribers have access to the 3G networks that China Mobile have been rolling out since 2009. That’s less than 3% of their total customer base.
Which, now that I think of it, is more than three times the population of Ireland. And WiMAX is rolling out here… you know what? Maybe China is the best country to test LTE in!