The industry is trying to make 3G services available in time for the 2008 Beijing Olympics so that half a billion cell phone subscribers and millions of visitors can stream and download small screen clips of Yao Ming slam dunking his way to gold medal glory.
What has been holding up 3G’s deployment? China has been pushing its home grown TD-SCDMA technology. TD-SCDMA was granted a license in 2006, but it is incompatible with the international standards of WCDMA and CDMA 2000. Apparently, the Chinese Government does not want to pay license fees for Western 3G technolgies and there is some speculation that it tried to cajole the IEEE to adopt TD-SCDMA as a global 3G standard. It didn’t work. Neither does TD-SCDMA if you believe the rumours that this is the reason that 3G is still not up and running in China.
Then there are the foreign cellphone manufacturers such as Nokia and Motorola who want China to adopt CDMA 2000 and WCDMA so their handsets work here. They are hedging their bets by making plans to release handsets for the Chinese market that support TD-SCMDA. China has compromised a little by accepting international standards to work alongside TD-SCDMA. It also appears that the Chinese telecoms sector is being totally restructured to make it ready to manage multiple variations of 3G, which may push the launch of the service until after the Olympics. Susan Wang of Forbes reports:
The restructuring will involve China Mobile developing services for the home-grown TD-SCDMA platform, China Telecom will buy China Unicom’s CDMA network in order to offer CDMA2000 services while China Netcom will merge with China Unicom to co-develop WCDMA services. Source: Forbes
We are pretty excited about the possibility that 3G will finally hit these shores, but that development will make us even more addicted to the Internet than we are already. Assuming that this is a good thing, we want to know how expensive and reliable Chinese 3G is going to be. How patchy will the service be when it is launched? Is Chinese 3G going to be hampered by restrictions such as Skype being blocked and artificial bandwidth caps?
For the time being, there is no point rushing out to buy the latest 3G phone until you are sure that it is compatible with whatever services are finally launched.
More Chinese 3G Related Stories
Forbes: China issuing 3G licenses after telecom restructuring
Asia Times Online: Foreign firms could lose out 3G in China
Nokia plans phones based on China’s 3G
China approves foreign 3G standards
Interview with Duncan Clark, Chairman of BDA
Video courtesy of Eugene Koong.
Crossposted on Catshanghai