China Unicom, the country’s second largest mobile carrier, will soon build a trial network for the Beijing-backed TD-LTE technology, said company chief executive Chang Xiaobing.
In a press briefing for its interim results yesterday in Hong Kong, Chang said Unicom will build the TD-LTE trial network in major cities and popular areas. But he didn’t provide the specific details about the scale of the trial network and the investment for the project.
The Chinese government is likely to give out 4G licenses for the operation of TD-LTE first in order to support the technology and narrow the gap between TDD and FDD, Chang said.
“Based on the information we’ve received so far, our analysis is that the government will issue 4G licenses in a similar way that 3G licenses were given out,” Chang said. “We just started this [planning for TD-LTE trial] lately, so it's too early to be specific or to tell how much the investment will be.”
When China issued 3G licenses, the MIIT gave out the license first to China Mobile to operate TD-SCDMA, in order to support the home-grown 3G technology. China Unicom and China Telecom, which adopted the widely used W-CDMA and cdma2000 technologies respectively, were given the 3G licenses nearly a year after China Mobile’s 3G launch.
The decision marks a reversal of the company’s early stance on choosing FDD technology over TDD for its future LTE network.
“The future 4G network must allow us to have a very smooth migration from [our] current 3G network, and we will be standing very firm with this direction,” Chang said back in March at a media briefing for its 2012 annual results.
Chang said the company still prefers FDD over TD-LTE.
“We, of course, want to be granted the FDD-LTE license as soon as possible…But the government [the MIIT] hasn’t disclosed any specific details about the 4G licensing,” he said, noting that everything is still in the air.