China Mobile goes big with LTE TDD

19 Dec 2013

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China Mobile is more or less the brand ambassador of LTE TDD, and 2013 saw its deployment exceed 200,000 base stations, making it the world’s largest for the technology. This scale makes the incumbent a model for others to follow, and Li Zhengmao, its Executive Vice President, recently shared some of China Mobile’s thoughts and strategies for LTE TDD technology with WinWin, covering both the domestic market and the world at large.

Well under way

WinWin: China Mobile’s LTE TDD deployment progress will have a significant impact on the pace of the technology’s global progress. Please share with us China Mobile’s deployment status and overall development strategy?

Li Zhengmao: China Mobile believes that LTE TDD can fully meet the needs of mobile Internet service with its two unique advantages of asymmetric uplink/downlink and abundant spectrum resources. LTE TDD also works in sync with LTE FDD. This is why China Mobile devotes itself to promoting the LTE TDD ecosystem development and actively implementing hybridized LTE TDD and FDD when possible.

The entire LTE TDD industry is gaining momentum. All mainstream vendors have network products ready for commercial use. Macro-micro coordination and VoLTE are becoming the norm. Devices that support LTE TDD now surpass 200 models, while handset manufacturers worldwide have launched smartphones that support LTE TDD or are actively planning to do so, offering more options to subscribers.

China Mobile is now constructing LTE TDD networks in more than 100 cities across China. Trials have begun in Beijing, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, among other cities, with good response from the market. With 200,000 stations completed in 2013, network technology will grow more mature and device prices will drop dramatically. The Chinese government will officially issue 4G licenses very soon (released on December 4th), which will trigger rapid user uptake. We are convinced that we can be the world’s largest LTE TDD network and still deliver a top-notch experience for our subscribers, whose demands are ever increasing.

We have also constructed an LTE network in Hong Kong that converges FDD and TDD, with resources pooled from the core network and wireless baseband/antennas. Only the remote radio units (RRUs) are constructed independently to support different FDD and TDD frequency bands. This network enables switching between both technologies, which complement each other in terms of coverage and capacity. We believe that with constant improvement in the ecosystem for devices that support both FDD and TDD, and its resulting penetration increase, converged FDD/TDD networking will provide a better and more flexible service experience to subscribers, with maximized utilization of spectrum.

WinWin: What would be your estimate of China Mobile’s LTE TDD subscriber base in the next three years?

Li Zhengmao: China is the most populous country in the world and also boasts the largest number of mobile communications subscribers, with more than 1.1 billion out of the population of 1.3 billion. However, in spite of that, the market is not yet saturated. Compared with the over-100% penetration rates in some developed countries, we still have significant growth potential. China Mobile has more than 700 million subscribers. In 2013, our LTE TDD network will cover over 500 million people and become the world’s largest LTE network. In the future, we will continue to expand and optimize this network and improve subscriber experience. According to our estimates, the number of LTE TDD subscribers with China Mobile will exceed 100 million in the next three years.

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