China's much-anticipated three network convergence (TNC) trials moved a step closer with the State Council's July 1 announcement of the 12 trial cities. The trials are expected to run through 2012, with full implementation targeted for end-2015. But serious problems must be overcome before the country's convergence hopes can be realized
During the TNC trials, cable operators will be able to provide new value-added services such as cable-modem offers and VoIP telephony while telecom players will be allowed greater freedom to launch IPTV offers.
The State Council has long wanted a converged future for the country's fixed-line, cable and mobile networks but in the past decade has been stymied by regulatory difficulties and structural problems in the telecom and cable markets.
But the TNC trials are now being pushed by senior government officials, who are also moving to make the long-awaited Telecom Law a reality, a necessary precursor to the TNC trials. The final draft of the Telecom Law was submitted to the State Council on May 24 after decades of delays. The legislation is designed to lay the framework for the regulation of a converged telecom market.
The regulatory challenge
Although network operators have logistical problems to overcome in making convergence a reality, perhaps the biggest problems will be in the regulatory sphere.
Telecom regulator the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and TV regulator the State Administration for Radio, Film and TV (SARFT) continue to battle for the upper hand in establishing control over the soon-to-be-converged communications market.