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Pacing in the 3G Waiting Room — Telecom Asia

Years of false labor seem to have done little to diminish the excitement over the long-anticipated birth of 3G in China, and once again next-generation standards, networks, handsets and applications are bound to be the focus of attention at PT/Expo Comm China 2004.

“Everyone is going to be waiting to hear about the status of TD-SCDMA, the results of the 3G trials, and hopefully a clear announcement about the future of 3G in China,” said Dave Carini of Beijing-based telecoms consultancy Norson. “There have been hints that licenses could be awarded sometime next summer, but with the number of ‘one more year’ announcements the Chinese market has heard, many are likely to be skeptical until they hear something definitive from the MII.”

3G trials concluded earlier this month, but specific results have yet to be released; the MII has said that TD-SCDMA is on track for commercialization but gave no further information about the performance of China’s homegrown 3G technology.

In April, in a trade visit to Washington, vice premier Wu Yi assured the US that Beijing will maintain a “technology-neutral” posture on 3G, allowing the four operators to whom licenses are expected to be issued to choose what 3G standard they want – W-CDMA (UMTS), CDMA 2000 or TD-SCDMA.

But Beijing seems determined to push TD-SCDMA into the spotlight during PT/Expo Comm. A TD-SCDMA Industry Alliance Summit will be held on the sidelines of the expo, beginning the afternoon of opening day, the 26th, and concluding the following afternoon. The roster of speakers represent not just Alliance and TD-SCDMA Forum members like Datang, Huawei, Siemens, Lenovo and UTStarcom, but also powerful ministries and commissions like the MII and the National Development and Reform Commission.

The TD-SCDMA Industry Alliance was formed in 2002 to promote adoption of China’s homegrown standard. Last year, the Chinese government spent some $72 million in supporting the standard, but a full complement of chips, handsets, base stations, antennae and switching equipment will not be market-ready until at least the middle of next year, according to statements by the Alliance.

3G handsets – irrespective of the standard for which they’re designed – are likely to be in the spotlight at this year’s show. The MII has been pushing Chinese handset vendors to develop terminals, the conspicuous lack of which could prove to be a serious bottleneck when 3G networks are eventually deployed. Currently, domestic Chinese companies including Amoi, Ningbo Bird and Lenovo have developed prototype 3G handsets, and are said to be putting the bulk of efforts into TD-SCDMA terminals.

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