China’s telecom ministry has stated that large-scale commercial deployment of LTE in the country will take between 3- 5 years.
This is the first time the ministry of industry and information technology (MIIT) has provided an official timeline for the country’s move to LTE.
Minister Miao Wei further told China Daily that significant rollouts were not to be expected until 2014.
China has been actively campaigning to have its homegrown LTE standard, TD-LTE, accepted globally. But most mature markets are supporting the more common FDD-LTE.
Miao declined comment on whether China would allow multiple LTE standards.
But 3G now looks set to remain the staple for China’s carriers until 2014.
The potential for 3G in China may not yet have been reached, according to figures from the MIIT. The ministry had anticipated 60 million 3G users in the country by the end of last year, but numbers stood at 47 million. Growth in 3G subscribers had largely been hampered by the lack of affordable 3G-compliant handsets.
Kevin Wang, an analyst at IHS iSuppli, told Telecom Asia that China’s carriers were likely to continue investing in 3G in order to attract users and improve ARPU.
“Today, there is no strong need for LTE networks. LTE devices are extremely limited in availability and 3G and 3.5G networks are capable of supporting most mobile applications,” says Wang.
Research from IHS iSuppli indicated China Mobile, which helped develop TD-LTE, would be likely be the first carrier to go forth with 4G, followed by China Telecom and China Unicom. According to Wang, China Unicom had the least incentive for LTE due to its status as China’s sole retailer of Apple’s iPhone.
TD-LTE trials are now underway in six cities in China.