A TDD iPhone 5 would be a turning point device, and there have been constant rumors of talks with Apple. Hopes for the iPhone maker, which is losing market share in the world's largest smartphone market, were also raised by Mobile's target to boost its total handset sales by 25% next year to 100 million.
The largest Chinese cellco, which has never yet agreed to an iPhone deal on Apple's stringent terms, launched a tender in September for different types of devices for its massive TD-LTE networks (which are officially still on a trial basis because the firm has not received official licences). It has now chosen 16 partners, according to local news agency SinaTech. The sources say the operator has already purchased 34,700 devices for its TD-LTE network tests in 13 cities across the nation.
Seven of the suppliers will provide 12,400 data cards, to ship in batches between October and March. Among the vendors are Huawei, Shanghai Bell Alcatel and HiSense. 10 vendors will supply 11,600 personal routers – these also include Huawei and the Alcatel-Lucent unit, plus ZTE. Huawei, ZTE and Samsung will supply 300 dual-mode TD-LTE/TD-SCDMA handsets, while seven firms, including ZTE and Alcatel, will also provide CPE units.
The scope of the tender originally included tablets, but local reports say these have been excluded for now as the technology is too immature and the prices too high in the TDD world.
The world's largest cellco by subscribers will start the second phase of its TD-LTE terminal procurements before the end of this year, with plans to order more than 200,000 units to be offered in over 100 cities over the course of 2013.
While these “trial” networks and devices will remain a small part of Mobile's total base next year, it is aiming for huge growth in its overall handset base, with the growth set to be driven mainly be smartphones – these will account for 80% of the total new sales in 2013, says the operator's mobile division chief Ma Jingxin.
The estimated 100 million units is up sharply on previous targets of 70 million to 80 million. However, this is not all good news for the mobile giants, as the cellco is increasing the percentage of units it buys from local vendors.