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China issued 3G licenses in January, 2009, to three telcos, China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom. The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said the country would invest CNY400 billion (US$59 billion) in the next three years. China Mobile received a licence for TD-SCDMA, the domestically-developed 3G standard, China Telecom will use the US-developed CDMA2000 and China Unicom will use WCDMA (GSM).

Reuters reports that two-thirds of China Mobile’s 3G contracts have now been bid out, with the remainder to be announced in August. China Mobile’s 3G service is expected to bring TD-SCDMA service to 70 percent of the country and cover 200 cities.

Time Division-Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access (TD-SCDMA), unlike other cellular systems, uses only a single channel for both talking and listening. Time Division switching is fast enough to allow simultaneous conversations. The advantage, say proponents of TD-SCDMA, is that one channel isn’t wasted while idle. Time Division is also well suited for asymmetrical data access and is generally used in WiMAX architecture as well as Wi-Fi.

The “S” in TD-SCDMA stands for “synchronous”. It synchronizes uplink signals to reduce the interference between users of the same timeslot, therefore increasing system capacity. CDMA employs spread-spectrum technology with a coding scheme, where each transmitter is assigned a code, allowing multiple users to be multiplexed over the same physical channel. Voice-centric CDMA is said to penetrate buildings better than data-centric OFDM. TD-SCDMA, it might be said, combines elements of “3G” WCDMA and “4G” OFDMA.

Some observers believe that TD-SCDMA is an attempt by the Chinese to avoid Qualcomm royalties, while others believe TD-SCDMA is a practical, cost/effective approach to meet China’s massive wireless requirements. There may be merit in both arguments.

Chinese companies are getting 88 percent of latest TD-SCDMA orders, reports Telecomm Magazine. China Mobile’s latest tender was worth CNY8.6 billion (US$1.26 billion) for the expansion of its home-grown TD-SCDMA 3G services.

ZTE got the biggest share of 34 percent, followed by Huawei with 22 percent while Datang and domestic partner, FibreHome Technologies were awarded 21 percent share of the order. Nokia Siemens Networks won 7 percent, and China Putian, New Postcom and Ericsson, each won 5 to 6 percent share.

TD-SCDMA Technical Summary

  • Frequency band: 2010 MHz – 2025 MHz in China (WLL 1900 MHz – 1920 MHz)
  • Minimum frequency band required: 1.6MHz
  • Frequency re-use: 1 (or 3)
  • Number of slots: 7
  • Modulation: QPSK or 8-PSK
  • Voice data rate: 8kbit/s
  • Circuit switched services: 12.2 kbits/s, 64 kbits/s, 144 kbits/s, 384 kbits/s, 2048 kbits/s
  • Packet data: 9.6kbits/s, 64kbits/s, 144kbits/s, 384kbits/s, 2048kbits/s

Ericsson has won mobile network contracts from China Mobile and China Unicom. China Mobile has contracted Ericsson to deploy green technologies, and expand its GSM/GRPS network in 18 provinces. The deal is worth $1 billion.

As of the end of June, China Mobile, the world’s largest cellular operator, services 72 percent of the country’s cellular market with 493.1 million mobile customers, against China Unicom’s 140 million and China Telecom’s 36.9 million. China Mobile has an Internet user base of 139 million as of Q1 2009.

China had 627.3 million mobile-phone users at the end of October in 2008. India is now the second largest wireless market in the world, with some 415.25 million, according to the latest figures from Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). The United States is the 3rd largest wireless market, according to the CTIA, with some 263 million mobile-phone users.

China’s telecommunications market may generate $187 billion by 2014, according to Pyramid Research. The analyst firm estimated that China’s telecoms market generated $110 billion last year, making it the second largest telecommunications services market in the Asia-Pacific region after Japan.

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