China Unicom backs WCDMA?

China Unicom wants to use the WCDMA standard for its 3G networks

“We are determined to be number one. We should get WCDMA, the most mature standard,” said Zuo Xunsheng, chairman and chief executive of China Netcom, a fixed-line operator that is merging with Unicom.

China announced at the beginning of the decade that it would develop its own 3G mobile networking standard in a bid to cut costs by avoiding some of the licensing fees associated with the West’s WCDMA approach. Although the technology is being tried out in 10 Chinese cities, no licences have yet been granted for services that use it.

Frank Hufschmid, head of sales for service assurance solutions in Asia Pacific for test services company JDSU, said that there have been problems with the new standard: “They started the trials at the beginning of the year with a lot of fanfare but that has now been whittled down.  China hasn’t issued the TD-SCDMA licences yet because the technology isn’t working.”

China Unicom is the smaller of the country's two mobile operators, yet still has 171 million customers on its GSM and CDMA networks. Under a government plan announced earlier in the year it will buy fixed-line operator China Netcom to create a national full-service telecoms carrier. It will also sell its

CDMA service, the smaller of its two wireless networks, to fixed-line leader China Telecom. The government’s aim is to speed up the introduction of 3G services in China.

Chang Xiaobing, chairman of China Unicom, said that if the merger is completed in October and the company gets a 3G licence, it aims to launch in autumn next year.

Unicom, in which South Korea's SK Telecom owns a 6.6 percent stake, has already said it will spend 100 billion yuan (£7.86 billion) in the next two years to fund its wireless infrastructure, with the bulk going to build a 3G network.

It will also increase this year’s capital spending by more than half, to 47.25 billion yuan (£3.7bn),  earmarking about three-quarters of the money to expand its GSM network into rural areas and improve the service quality.

It remains it be seen whether plans to use the WCMDA standard rather than the native SC-TDMA approach will be stymied by bureaucracy.

“The ten cities [where it is being trialled] haven’t launched the services yet, or allowed 3G licences to vendors using other network technologies,” said Hufschmid. “I can understand why, because of the cost of the licences and the number of base-stations they will need.

“After the Olympics and the Paralympics I expect the Chinese will get back into it, because it is a pride issue.”

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