3G is harder than it looks.
Reports that China Mobile is now investing directly into TD-SCDMA handsets have an air of inevitability about them.
The mainland market leader is to kick $88 million into TD R&D and production because of the poor quality and pricing of available handsets, according to an MIIT official.
That's just at home. Abroad, China Mobile CEO Wang Jianzhou admits has offered cash to Nokia, LG, Samsung and Sony Ericsson to help them trick out their cool phones with TD.
Some 40-odd TD-SCDMA phones are on the market already, but Wang told FT.com he needs "several hundred".
He says he made his offer to co-fund TD-SCDMA when he met with handset-makers during the Barcelona GSMA congress last month. No deals have been reached, but the vendors were "very excited." I dare say.
Like no other cellco in the world, China Mobile has come to dominate the mainland telecom market, commanding three-quarters of the growth and the profit.
With the launch of its TD-based 3G network in the middle of the year it will face revved-up competition from two competitors for the first time.
Unicom and Telecom have at least 600 cdma2000, EV-DO, W-CDMA and HSPA phones at their disposal.
You can count on one hand the number of TD phones Nokia, Samsung and Motorola are committed to making. No wonder China Mobile is brandishing fistfuls of dollars at them.