By Charles Cooper
Despite what many ill-informed Apple fans will have you believe, the “4” in iPhone 4 does not mean that you are capable of connecting to the 4G network, especially if you’re in China. Miao Wei, the head of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, says a 4G network is still roughly 3 years off from arriving in China.
China Mobile and China Unicom would need to roughly double the 220,000 TD-SCDMA base stations throughout China, in order to ensure the 4G network can guarantee its standard (10 – 100 times faster than the existing 3G network).
As smartphones become increasingly ubiquitous, networks around the world are becoming clogged with people watching Conan clips on YouTube and Cat Uncle on Youku, so obviously the country with the biggest mobile network in the world is going to have traffic issues. That’s why China Mobile is planning to place 20,000 TD-LTE base stations throughout China, with potentially 200,000 by the end of the year.
Simply put, LTE (Long Term Evolution) is the major technology behind 4G networks, capable of supporting more users in a single area, covering a larger area and allegedly under ideal conditions capable of download speeds of over 150 Mb/s and uploads of 80 Mb/s. The TD, Time Division, is China Mobile’s home-grown technology that would allow 4G networks to carry the signal on a cheaper band of the wireless spectrum and free up traffic.
It took China quite a while to adopt the 3G standard, so you’d better savor it while it’s here. This all sounds very promising, but given that China’s mobile internet speeds are the second slowest in the world, don’t expect the government to hand out 4G licenses all willy-nilly.