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China Mobile has launched a tender for suppliers to build its 4G TD-LTE network in China. The bidding aims to build 207,000 base stations in 31 provinces around the country.

It’s the largest ever launched by the world’s biggest operator.

According to the China Daily, China Mobile’s annual capital spending will increase 49 per cent to USD $30.5 billion, with more than half of the company’s network expenditure going towards 4G in 2013.

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China Mobile was allocated 2300-MHz spectrum in 2009 for use with its TDD SCDMA network. It has been trialing LTE using trial licenses with spectrum in both the 2300-MHz band (with use restricted to indoor provision) and 2500-MHz TDD (2570 to 2620-MHz).

Alcatel-Lucent China president Yuan Xin told the China Daily he was optimistic of a satisfactory result for the company when China Mobile announces the winning bidders in the third quarter. He said TD-LTE will be a core foundation of its future business.

Ericsson VP for Asia-Pacific Mats Olsson said the company is now interested in the development of TD-LTE in China after previously focusing on FDD-LTE.

Analysts have argued that domestic network equipment vendors will have an advantage over foreign companies, with Huawei and ZTE expected to secure more than half of the share of China Mobile’s network build.

China Mobile has recently launched TD-LTE trial networks and built 20,000 base stations in 15 pilot cities including Shanghai and Guangzhou.

China Mobile awarded ZTE a contract for the rollout of its TD-LTE network in Beijing, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Shenyang in October 2012. Alcatel-Lucent was awarded a contract for three more cities as part of the company’s plan to cover a total of 13 cities with the trial.

Sony’s Xperia SP M35t, is its first TD-LTE device for China Mobile. It comes with a 4.6-inch 720p touchscreen that works with gloves. Since China Mobile and Clearwire have cooperated on TD-LTE interoperability, there’s a good chance it will show up on Clearwire as well.

The number of China Mobile 4G subscribers is forecast to reach 228.8 million in 2017, representing 52 percent of China’s 439.9 million total 4G users.

In comparison, 4G users from China Unicom and China Telecom—the country’s two other major telecommunications operators—will number 114.4 million and 96.8 million, respectively.

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