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6/7/2010
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China Mobile 4G Standard Seeks Global Adoption

Nokia-Siemens says it will develop TD-LTE dual-use equipment, but the mobile broadband technology's overseas success is a long shot.

Telecom operator China Mobile is pushing to gain wider international acceptance of the country's domestic fourth-generation mobile broadband technology, even though commercialization of its 3G technology has been rocky at best.

On the sidelines of a 4G conference, China Mobile Chairman Wang Jianzhou said his firm plans on "cooperating with foreign operators to develop scale TD-LTE trial networks in their countries in the second half of this year."

The carrier achieved some success on that front last week when Nokia Siemens announced it will launch a next-generation mobile communications system platform that supports both global 4G standards, Long-Term Evolution (LTE) and the Chinese derivative, Time Division LTE. China's 4G technology is an extension of its domestically developed 3G standard, TD-SCDMA, which is used at China Mobile and was plagued early on with poor performance because of its relative immaturity compared to W-CDMA and CDMA EV-DO.

Even if the technology turns out to be superior to 3G and gains the support of carriers and tech companies, the billions needed in outlay to get LTE running could be wasted if consumers were slow to adopt the technology, as they were with 3G until the iPhone came on the market in 2007.

To help stir interest in China's TD-LTE, China Mobile is backing the development of terminals, which made their first collective appearance late last week at the 2010 Next Generation Mobile Networks Industry Conference (NGMN) in Shanghai. Huawei, Sequans, Innofidei, ST-Ericsson, Samsung and Altair were among those who displayed TD-LTE network cards and video terminals. China Mobile hopes the devices will help plug a deficiency in TD-LTE compatible terminals.

LTE could be the next great advance in wireless broadband networks. Its typical downloading speeds are around 100Mbps and uploading speeds 50Mbps. Apart from letting consumers surf the Internet on-the-go at speeds faster than anything available now, it can also support mobile high-definition TV.

China Mobile has chosen the TD-LTE version of LTE for its next generation high-speed mobile communications network. Because of the key role it has played in TD-LTE's development, it figures to be one of the biggest winners if the system becomes widespread.

But China Mobile will need to take costly steps to expand the TD-LTE network. It began testing TD-LTE last year and has a large-scale trial network at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai. And it has already announced that it plans to choose four to five cities before the year is out to build more trial networks.

Progress has been made. According to NetEase, Wen Ku, the chief of the technology department at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said at NGMN that the first stage of testing for TD-LTE has already been completed.

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