China Unicom and China Telecom are set to expand their 4G trials to an additional 15 cities, a move which will see the companies’ hybrid FDD/TDD LTE network reach 56 cities across the country.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) yesterday approved the expansion plans, giving the two mobile operators a bigger 4G footprint to compete against China Mobile, whose TD-LTE network already covers more than 300 cities with more than 570,000 TD-LTE base stations.
China Telecom will see its 4G network expand to Shaoxing, Taizhou, Changzhou, Xuzhou, Yangzhou, Yancheng, Qingdao, Tangshan, Baoding, Dalian, Zhongshan, Huizhou, Jiangmen, Wuhu and Yulin, reports sina.com.
China Unicom, meanwhile, will extend its 4G coverage to Foshan, Quanzhou, Weifang, Wenzhou, Fuyang, Wuxi, Yichang, Hengyang, Guilin, Langfang, Linfen, Nanchong, Weinan, Nanyang and Nantong.
At present, China Unicom and China Telecom each operate hybrid TDD/FDD LTE trails in 41 cities. Although the network expansion will help boost the two operators’ 4G adoption, the announcement brushed off rumors that the MIIT will issue commercial licenses to China Unicom and China Telecom this month.
Due to the government's 4G regulatory policy, China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile carrier by subscribers, has received a significant head start in its 4G rollout and gained over 54 million TD-LTE subscribers since its commercial launch in December.
In October, China Mobile’s 4G subscriber base reached 54.5 million, after adding 3.5 million new TD-LTE users during the month. The mobile giant raised its 4G subscriber target for 2014 to 70 million, from the 50 million the company set earlier this year, with plans to more than double its 4G subscriber base to 150 million by the end of next year and 300 million by the end of 2016.
In comparison, China Telecom, the country’s smallest mobile carrier, said it lost 2.75 million mobile customers in October “due to the increasing market competition driven by the launch of LTE services and strengthened marketing promotion by its peer[s].” The company didn’t disclose its 4G customer figures but said it had 182 million mobile subscribers by October, of which nearly 115 million were 3G customers.
China Unicom, meanwhile, added over 1.1 million 3G and 4G customers in October, bringing its 3G and 4G subscriber base to nearly 147 million.