While China Mobile has so far been using 3G bands, the national regulator is now considering the allocation of dedicated frequencies for TD-LTE. It had previously suggested that new spectrum would not be opened up for 2-3 more years.
This could accelerate the build-out, with consequent influence over the global ecosystem. Confidence in the Chinese market has a knock-on effect on device availability and carrier commitment in other countries where TD-LTE could play a major role in 4G, including many Asian economies, the US and parts of Europe.
A powerful role for the TDD flavour of LTE is important for China as this is a technology it largely created, and in which its vendors hold significant intellectual property.
Kan Runtian, deputy director of state radio regulation at the Ministry of Industry and Information, said the agency is considering allocating 98 MHz of spectrum in the 1.4-GHz (1427MHz-1515MHz) band for the deployment of TD-LTE, according to news source C114.net.
However, this might not all be for China Mobile – its rivals China Unicom and China Telecom may add TD-LTE to their 4G mix, even though their 3G systems are in FDD spectrum, while Kan also said the regulator is evaluating both public and private networks in the 1.4GHz band.
“TD-LTE has been deployed worldwide. The radio regulation department will continue to support the development of TD-LTE, while promoting the coordinated development of different wireless communication technologies in further scientific planning and rational allocation of radio spectrum resources for different wireless networks,” he said in a statement.
The Ministry indicated last month that it would open up 190MHz of spectrum in the 2500-MHz - 2690-MHz band for TD-LTE, though it did not give timescales. This would mean China‘s roll-outs could be harmonized with those in many other countries where the 2.5/2.6GHz spectrum is being used for LTE – usually with a combination of paired and unpaired frequencies being offered to carriers. In the US this spectrum is largely held by Clearwire, which is migrating from Wimax and has a roaming and device development deal with China Mobile.
To accelerate the commercialization of 4G services, the MIIT has been reported to be accelerating its procedure for awarding operating licences for LTE. These could now become available next year instead of in 2014 or 2015, as previously indicated. However, Chinese licence procedures are notoriously subject to delay and politicking, and the other two national cellcos have not yet outlined their own LTE strategies.
Last week Mobile announced a list of 16 vendors to supply devices in its first wave of TD-LTE procurement, covering about 35,000 data terminals of various kinds, for trial networks in 13 cities.