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What’s The Buzz — Telecom Asia

As organizers make final preparations, exhibitors put the finishing touches on their booths and the dancing girls rehearse their routines, telecom analysts offer insights into what to expect from this year’s PT/Expo Comm China.

“There’s likely to be less whiz-bang factor this year than in years past,” admits Duncan Clark, managing director of Beijing-based ICT consultancy BDA. “Capex has been reasonably tame in recent years,” he adds, “and it’s going to be quiet ahead of 3G licensing.”

Not surprisingly, 3G continues to grab the headlines and generates the most palpable excitement, even after repeated delays. There’s movement, however, on other important fronts. “On the fixed line side, there’s a lot of buzz around VoIP and softswitch technology,” says Clark. Expect product announcements from the usual suspects like Huawei, ZTE and UTStarcom.

Meanwhile, Intel will be pushing adoption of its modular communications platform – a cluster of standardized modules for network equipment developers that the company hopes will eventually give it the same headlock on the telecom equipment market that it now has over computing.

WiMAX is another area to watch, says Clark. Only months after Beijing backed down in the WAPI spat with Intel, the company signed a deal for deployment of its 802.16a last-mile broadband solution in two major Chinese cities, Dalian and Chengdu. WiMAX is being touted as a perfect, broadband-optimized solution for parts of rural China, capable of carrying voice, data and even video at up to 70 Mbps.

RFID may take off in China faster than expected as Wal-Mart, the major user of the enhanced barcode in the US, pushes its vendors (and how many aren’t in China?) to adopt the technology. Beijing, however, sees its own opportunity in this relatively new area, and Clark suggests that some push for a Chinese standard in RFID is forthcoming.

Dave Carini, an analyst with Norson Telecom Consulting in Beijing, says the future of PHS and other 2G alternatives remains an interesting topic. “PHS has peaked, but is still pulling in lots of new subscribers,” he said. “At the same time, there are several technologies that, like PHS, could help connect much of rural China. It will be interesting to see if the fixed-line operators have any plans in this area – and if the government’s attitude toward other technologies like CDMA450 will change.”

Handsets are sure to generate buzz as they do every year, with the major international vendors battling back into the China market with high-end models and smartphones. “The big domestic vendors have been talking about moving into markets outside of China,” says Carini, “but will they have any new plans or models for the domestic market?”

Japanese handset vendors are also managing to make significant inroads into the Chinese market, Carini adds. “Of course, you can always just ignore all this and go to the Samsung booth to gawk at the miniskirted girls prancing around with their new 12,000 RMB camera/mp3/triple-screen/surround-sound phones,” says Carini. “That’s what everyone else will be doing.”

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