China Telecom and China Unicom have finally been granted FDD LTE licenses, paving the way for full-scale hybrid TDD/FDD LTE network rollouts.
China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has allocated FDD licenses to both of the state-owned operators.
Both China Telecom and China Unicom have announced that they plan to use the new licenses to bolster their existing 4G operations. China Telecom said it expects the allocations to stimulate growth in China's telecom market.
Each operator is already involved in wide-scale FDD-TDD trials. In December, both companies were granted permission to extend their trials to 15 more cities, taking their respective coverage up to 56 cities.
China Telecom and Unicom both elected to implement hybrid FDD/TDD LTE networks due to the MIIT's decision to allocate licenses covering the homegrown TD-LTE standard ahead of FDD licenses.
TD-LTE licenses were handed out in November 2013, more than a year before the FDD allocation.
TD-LTE standard progenitor China Mobile has therefore had a significant head-start in the LTE race, gaining over 54.5 million 4G subscribers as of December. The company has set a target of having 150 million 4G customers by the end of the year and 300 million by end-2016.