China is likely to allocate commercial 4G licenses to the nation's mobile operators this year, state-run media has reported.
Xinhuaquotes Miao Wei, China's minister for industry and IT, as revealing that he expects the allocation to take place in 2013.
On the sidelines of a legislative session, Miao said that China will need to speed up base station construction and terminal procurement to support commercial deployment, and that this will require greater financial and technical input from the government.
China has so far been reluctant to set an official timeline for the issue of 4G licenses, but some observers hadn't been expecting an allocation until next year.
Operators have been working hard to prepare for the 4G era while they wait. China Mobile has been operating TD-LTE trial networks since March 2011, and in February launched commercial services on a trial basis in two cities.
Analysts expect the operator's head-start to help it capture the majority of 4G subscribers in the nation once commercial services are launched.
Even though China Mobile is the biggest backer of the TD-LTE standard, the operator recently hinted it may decide to run dual-mode 4G networks using both TDD and FDD LTE.