China's cellcos line up for LTE rollouts

Caroline Gabriel/Wireless Watch
03 Sep 2013

The 4G era is getting closer in China, as leading cellco China Mobile lines up its first TD-LTE devices and rival China Telecom mulls a dual-mode network.

The former says it has 15 handsets ready for use on its LTE network, which should be cleared by the regulator to go fully commercial later this year, sparking major expansion. CEO Li Yue told a recent press conference that a further 100 devices are in the works, and talks over an iPhone continue.

The world's largest cellco by subscribers has been in periodic negotiations with Apple over the years, but these have foundered over various issues such as branding and required sales targets.

With Apple losing share to Android, however, it may ease up on its usual demands to sign up high growth carriers like Mobile (it is also reported to be close to a deal with another elusive Asian giant, NTT DoCoMo of Japan).

“The discussions with Apple are still ongoing,” Xi said. “Most of the discussion revolves around commercial details and technology issues.”

In the second quarter, Samsung led the Chinese smartphone market with 18% share, helped by Apple being confined to the smaller carriers. According to figures from Canalys, all the other top five vendors were local- Lenovo with 12% share, followed by Coolpad, ZTE and Huawei, all of them driven by distribution deals with Mobile. Apple, lacking such an alliance, saw its share drop to 5%, its lowest since the fourth quarter of 2010.

Meanwhile, controversy over 4G spectrum and technology has dogged the progress of Mobile's rivals in making strategies for LTE. They also have less urgent incentive to invest in new networks, since they have superior 3G systems – W-CDMA for China Unicom and CDMA2000 for China Telecom, while their larger rival was forced to use the local flavor, TD-SCDMA, which lacks the ecosystem of the others.

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