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China enters 4G era. Each operator gets what it wants.

by Guang Yang | 12月 04, 2013

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) issued 4G licenses to all three operators on Dec 4th. They are all TD-LTE. The regulator also awarded China Mobile the license for fixed broadband service. China Telecom and China Unicom also got their special gifts. The two operators are permitted to perform LTE FDD trials to test the hybrid deployment of LTE FDD and TDD. The commercial licenses for LTE FDD will be issued in the future, perhaps in 2014.

China Mobile should be happy with this arrangement. Three TD-LTE icenses will enlarge the scale of economy of TD-LTE in China. The delay of LTE FDD commercial licenses will ensure China Mobile’s leading position in 4G competition. The fixed broadband license allows China Mobile to enter the broadband market, particularly the high margin enterprise market. It will enable China Mobile to develop its fix-mobile integrated service strategy.

China Telecom and China Unicom should not be disappointed either. The regulator has committed to award them LTE FDD licenses. In fact, a lot of things could be done in the name of trial network. There are already 20 thousand base stations in China Mobile’s TD-LTE trial network. It could be a good reference for China Telecom and China Unicom’s LTE FDD trial networks.

MIIT also mentioned in a statement that the regulator will push the infrastructure sharing during 4G network rollout. It may mean China Telecom and China Unicom could rent China Mobile’s TD-LTE network instead of to deploy base stations by themselves. The infrastructure sharing would ease China Telecom and China Unicom’s financial pressure and help them to focus on LTE FDD networks.

China Mobile will launch a new service brand for its 4G service in mid-December. It is expected that China Mobile will take an aggressive 4G marketing strategy. China Telecom and China Unicom may keep a low profile in the early stage of 4G market. They will focus on the deployment of LTE FDD “trial” networks, while waiting for the commercial licenses of LTE FDD.

Device will be a major headache of Chinese operators’ 4G programs. China Mobile has been pushing 5 modes (TD-LTE, LTE FDD, TD-SCDMA, UMTS and GSM) devices strongly. But the progress is quite slow. They just lowered the standard to 3 modes (TD-LTE, TD-SCDMA and GSM) in this week in order to get affordable 4G devices quickly. The challenge for China Telecom will be even more serious, because they may need 6 modes, considering their 3G network is CDMA2000.

P.S. 4G frequency allocation in China is shown as the table below.




China Mobile

1880 -1900 MHz

2320-2370 MHz

2575-2635 MHz


China Telecom

2300-2320 MHz

2555-2575 MHz

1.8GHz (Band 3)

2.1GHz (Band 1)

China Unicom

2370-2390 MHz

2635-2655 MHz

1.8GHz (Band 3)

2.1GHz (Band 1)


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