updated 10:10 am EDT, Fri March 28, 2008
China Tests Own 3G
China Mobile on Friday said it had started testing the country's own 3G network, offering its first native high-speed cellular access. A limited but public trial will see about 20,000 cellphones and 5,000 PC adapter cards in use that will prove the feasibility of TD-SCDMA, a new standard developed inside China meant to serve as an alternative to HSPA and other Western-made (and thus more costly to license) formats. The trial will start in Beijing and several other major Chinese cities, but has no fixed end date.
The technology is said to be more flexible in its use of spectrum and is known to be better at handling larger numbers of users than HSPA, which often needs considerably more cell towers than slower technologies for an effective amount of coverage.
Handset makers are likely to require support for TD-SCDMA once services become official, as the format is not mandatory in China but is officially supported by the country's government. Motorola and Nokia have already pledged devices capable of calls and data with the new standard, and others are expected to follow suit if TD-SCDMA gains more widespread adoption. China Mobile is said to be interested in the iPhone but has not said whether it would insist on TD-SCDMA support or else allow a phone with HSPA.