TD-SCDMA gets the last laugh

John C. Tanner
15 Oct 2009

Last month's LTE conference in Hong Kong offered plenty of updates from cellcos on their plans for LTE, but little in the way of new topics to talk about - with two exceptions. One was the concept of LTE as ADSL substitute and possibly FTTH challenger (see this month's "First Mile: LTE to take on FTTH in Japan").

The second was TD-LTE. Which is astounding.

I say this because TDD has always been the stepchild of the 3G world. It had two standards under IMT-2000 and gave cellcos that acquired unpaired spectrum during 3G license auctions something to do with it - like, say, offer fixed-line broadband substitution in unserved areas much like Wimax is doing now. Only they didn't, of course. Cellcos were focused on FDD-based W-CDMA, and despite the efforts of a handful of companies like IPWireless and InterDigital, TD-CDMA (the UMTS version of TDD) never caught on.

Delay tactics

China's version, TD-SCDMA, generated even less love. TD-SCDMA carried too much political baggage that became increasingly noticeable as China's MII continuously put off issuing 3G licenses in an apparent plan to wait until TD-SCDMA was ready for commercial prime time - and, more importantly able to compete against W-CDMA and EV-DO.

Almost a full decade after the ITU approved it for IMT-2000, TD-SCDMA went live in 2008 (in extremely limited quantities), and China Mobile has already slashed its end-of-2009 subscriber target by 70%. Meanwhile, critics have piled on China for obstinately backing a technology that would only serve to isolate it in a 3G world, as no one in the world was ever going to seriously adopt TD-SCDMA.

Oh how they laughed.

They're not laughing now.

Well, all right, they're laughing a little. But they're paying a lot closer attention to its possibilities, especially now that TD-SCDMA is primed to evolve into a global standard: TD-LTE.


No Comments Yet! Be the first to share what you think!