China Mobile announced Thursday that it plans to launch a converged TDD/FDD LTE network this year in Hong Kong, as part of the company’s plan to push the TD-LTE technology.
China Mobile executive director and vice chairman Xi Guohua said the network will be operated by the company’s Hong Kong subsidiary, China Mobile Hong Kong, which has both the TDD and FDD spectrum
China Mobile Hong Kong will launch commercial services as soon as the fourth quarter, when handsets that support both FDD and TDD being available this year, Xi added.
“This [the FDD/TDD network in Hong Kong] is a very meaningful step to us,” Xi said.” It can lay a good foundation to our implementation of TD-LTE services in mainland China.”
Additionally, China Mobile will also expand its TD-LTE trials by adding three major cities – Beijing, Tianjin and Qingdao- in its latest phase of test on the 4G technology. The addition brings the total number of cities that will take part in the test to nine.
The operator began trails of TD-LTE in six major cities in January 2011 with over 900 base stations and plans to officially start a second phase of the trials this year.
“We hope to construct 20,000 TD-LTE base stations this year, and would commence pre-commercial trails of TD-LTE in Hangzhou and Shenzhen, where China Mobile will use new spectrum to operate the trail networks,” Li Yue, president of China Mobile told a press conference Thursday in Hong Kong.
If the expanded trails are successful this year, China Mobile will increase the number of TD-LTE base stations in China to more than 200,000 through new network build-outs or upgrade to extend scale of pre-commercial trail, he added.
The operator added nearly 66 million subscribers last year to take its year-end tally to 650 million. 3G customers had exceeded 51 million by the end of 2011 with over 40% of market share. As expected, overall ARPU continue to fall to 71 yuan from 73 yuan the previous year.
Yet the operator is facing increasing competition from its smaller rivals. China Unicom in particular beat the mobile giant in the race for new 3G customers over last few months.
To respond to the competition and attract more 3G users, Li said China Mobile would increase its handset subsidy budget to 20 billion yuan this year from 17.2 billion yuan the previous year, of which 90% will be used for marketing and promoting its 3G business.
He said the company is targeting 30 million new 3G subscribers this year, and aims to achieve this target through the introduction of new TD-SCDMA smartphones and low-end smartphones priced under 1000 yuan.