After years of dragging their feet, Chinese officials finally seem ready to issue 3G licenses.
Xi Guohua, the MIIT vice-minister responsible for telecom in the Ministry for Industry & Information Technology, gave the strongest hint yet when he said conditions for handing down the long-awaited licenses 'are now ripe'.
Xi told an industry conference in Beijing last month Xi that the government had said that the licensing was would take place after the industry restructure was completed. He said the MIIT was now working with other agencies on 'licensing policies and a full set of reform measures.'
China Mobile vice president Sha Yuejia told the same conference that he expected the licenses to be quickly issued.
At the GSM Association event in Macau the same week, China Unicom CEO Chang Xiaobing said he hoped the newly-merged operator would receive a license by year-end.
He said the licensing would support the effort to stimulate the flagging economy.
Unnamed sources told the Financial Times there was a 60% chance that licenses would be announced by yearend, and a 40% chance of being issued by Chinese New Year in late January.
China's TD-SCDMA technology, the main reason for the delay in the 3G rollout, received a boost when Nokia announced it would launch its first TD-SCDMA handset next year.
Xi said TD-SCDMA commercialization was 'basically extremely successful', but China Mobile chairman Wang Jianzhou once more complained about the limited quality and availability of handsets.
'The major problem is handset supply. We need to have quality handsets with good prices,' he said in Macau.
He said the company had received many complaints from customers about TD dropped calls, 80% of which were caused by the handsets.
Gartner analyst Sandy Shen said Nokia was unlikely to supply many different models for GSM/TD-SCDMA because of the limited windows of opportunity for TD services.
Related news and analysis:
- China to issue 3G licenses early in 2009
- Nokia to launch TD-SCDMA handset by end- 2009
- Chinese vendors dominate $4.4bn TD-SCDMA tender
- Handsets remain top obstacle -- TD-SCDMA Forum
- China Mobile eyes lower 3G rates