Its domestic competitors China Unicom (GSM) and China Telecom (CDMA) now both offer iPhone handsets on their networks. China Mobile’s homegrown TD-SCDMA service left it unable to offer popular handsets, including Apple’s iPhone. Unlike most CDMA networks, it uses only a single frequency for uplink and downlink.
The carrier’s new chairman said China Mobile can’t predict if the two sides will come to an agreement this year. Chairman Xi Guohua said at a shareholder meeting in Hong Kong today that the carrier is counting on a shift to a fourth-generation wireless network to stem a decline in market share.
“China Mobile and Apple both have the will to strengthen cooperation,” Xi said. “When there is more specific news, we will disclose it.”
China Mobile will expand its TD-LTE network trial to nine cities, from six in 2011, and add 20,000 base stations to the 900 it tested last year, Chief Executive officer Li Yue told the meeting today, reiterating a plan announced in March. If the trial is a success, the total number of 4G base stations will climb to 200,000 next year, he said.
The Global TD-LTE Initiative (GTI) is a virtual open platform to advocate cooperation among global operators to promote TD-LTE. China Mobile, Clearwire, Europe’s Vodafone, India’s Bharti Airtel and Japan’s Softbank are on the GTI steering committee and have established a joint test platform for TD-LTE devices.
The availability of the Quad-Band LTE 2.3-2.7 GHz handsets, in addition to certain other bands like 1.9GHz, may make Clearwire a good candidate for interoperability with the same gear used by China Mobile and Indian TD-LTE operators.
The Global TD-LTE Initiative labs will allow for the evaluation and qualification of commercial TD-LTE devices simultaneously in the U.S., China, and India, using common testing methodology and equipment. The only spectrum that’s (mostly) harmonized on a global basis for 4G LTE are the 2.3 and 2.6 GHz bands. The 2.6 GHz band has largely been set aside for 4G, world-wide, although auctions in some countries such as Britain, may not happen until later this year or early next year.
China Mobile had 667.2 million mobile-phone subscribers at the end of March, the company said last month. AT&T and Verizon Wireless are comparative bit players on the global stage.
Clearwire says its initial TD-LTE overlay will cover just 5,000 sites concentrated in urban areas by the middle of next year and will then expand to a total of 8,000 sites, half of the cell sites it currently uses for its WiMAX network. Not exactly a rich mobile experience.
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