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China Mobile's 4G experience center in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. People in Hangzhou and Wenzhou can apply for limited 4G services, such as MiFi, to go online on certain devices. Yi Peng / For China Daily
Hangzhou, Wenzhou get a taste of latest mobile network technology
China Mobile Ltd expanded commercial trials of its fourth-generation mobile network on Saturday to include Hangzhou and Wenzhou in Zhejiang province as it prepares for a full-scale 4G rollout across the country.
China Mobile will not be providing voice services during its 4G-network trial. That's because the TD-LTE network still needs further development, according to analysts. However, people in Hangzhou and Wenzhou can still apply for limited services, such as MiFi, to go online on certain devices.
According to a report from the Global Mobile Suppliers Association, 13 operators throughout the world had launched TD-LTE-based commercial services by 2012, making the technology one of the world's mainstream 4G telecommunication standards.
"China Mobile's goal in Hangzhou and Wenzhou is to test the stability of its 4G network," said Bryan Wang, vice-president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. Meanwhile, the commercial trial will allow China Mobile to collect customer feedback and gauge market response to the 4G service, Wang said.
China Mobile, the major promoter for the homegrown TD-LTE technology, is currently conducting large-scale 4G trials in 13 Chinese cities. The company said last year that it hoped to have a total of more than 200,000 TD-LTE base stations through new construction and upgrade by 2013.
Since the company has not received a license from the government to provide 4G services, China Mobile said the latest move in Zhejiang province was still a commercial trial of the homegrown TD-LTE technology.
Analysts anticipated an earlier issue of 4G licenses from the Chinese government. Miao Wei, the minister of industry and information technology, said in March last year that the authorities will begin approving 4G licenses in about two to three years. But in a September interview, Miao said the licenses will be ready for issue in one year.
"We expect the government to issue 4G permits in the second half of this year," said Ji Chendong, a telecom analyst at KPMG. It is very likely that China Telecom Corp Ltd, the nation's smallest mobile operator, will also get a TD-LTE 4G license, he said.
"There are still many obstacles for China Mobile to overcome. For example, the company should further encourage the development of 4G devices, design service contracts and determine pricing strategies," Ji said.
In a June interview last year, Xi Guohua, chairman of China Mobile Ltd, said use of TD-LTE networks will take off and expand at a rapid pace once 4G-capable devices are widespread.
"The lack of TD-LTE devices could hamper the company's 4G rollout," Xi said.
(China Daily 02/05/2013 page17)