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TD-LTE 4G network is currently undergoing a final set of large-scale tests, while 3G infrastructure is built up

China may be the largest smartphone market in the world, but for the most part it's stuck in the 3G slow lane.  

To understand why China has not reached the level of LTE mass deployment the U.S. has, one must understand a bit about how mobile access works in China.  In China, like in the U.S., there are several large national carriers.  Each carrier obtains licenses from the government to use certain chunks of spectrum.

However, in China, the carriers are state-owned.  Rather than the carriers licensing the spectrum up front and then determining deployment details on a case-by-case basis, initial deployment testing is carried out by the government and precedes any license grants.

That's more or less been the story with TD-LTE (Time-Division Long Term Evolution) technology -- China's 4G (fourth generation) LTE technology, which differs in technical implementation from the Frequency-Division Long Term Evolution (FD-LTE) used in the U.S.

Initial testing has been carried out on China Mobile, a state run carrier, but TD-LTE handset selection has been limited and coverage is only available in some markets.

Despite tests showing TD-LTE being ready for prime time, China's 4G deployment was delayed due to another factor -- lack of base stations.  Chinese central planners wanted the number of TD-SCDMA (Time Division-Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access) base stations to be expanded from 220,000 to 400,000 [source].  Only then would upgrades be applied to the state-owned base stations to make them TD-LTE compatible.  And licenses would not be granted until that patch had rolled out.

China Mobile base station
A base station towers at China Mobile, the nation's largest carrier. [Image Source: M.I.C. Gadget]

That meant that previous reports indicated that 2014 was the reported date for mass TD-LTE licensing among China's state-owned carriers.

But a new report in state-owned news agency Xinhua cites Miao Wei, head of China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), as saying that in about a year (H2 2013) licenses will be granted.

China Mobile, who will have 20,000 base stations upgraded to be TD-LTE compatible by the year's end, reportedly stated that it will have 350,000 compatible upgraded base stations by 2014.

The Asian giant may be a little late to the LTE party, but that doesn't mean that it couldn't still seize the speed crown.  In the U.S. LTE speeds, despite broad availability, remain well below the official specified rates.

Source: Xinhua

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Why compare China and USA
By Uncle on 9/11/2012 7:21:00 PM , Rating: 3
Why compare China and USA. The USA is far behind Asia(Japan, Korea,Singapore}and Europe. In the last ten years the USA is always playing catch up. The writer makes it sound like the USA is the standard that sets the pace for the rest of the world, ah ah, not anymore. Some country's are having a tough time not considering the USA as a basket case third world country in need of help from the IMF and The world Bank to show it how to get out of the financial quagmire its in, because its too proud to ask for help. I don't now what the USA would do if their military complex didn't keep the workers employed. They would be back to the dirty thirties with food stamps,soup kitchens, food banks, people living in the streets, massive unemployment. Whats that you say,that's all ready happening.

RE: Why compare China and USA
By wordsworm on 9/11/2012 8:28:23 PM , Rating: 2
Most of the readers here are Americans. That might be why.

RE: Why compare China and USA
By Uncle on 9/11/2012 9:36:09 PM , Rating: 2
That was my point. Many Americans when they read a comparison between them and another country, where they are the top technocrats in comparison, gives them the thought that they are still number one in the world. When in fact their slipping lower every year. As long as they believe their No1, why would they concern themselves in improving.

By TacticalTrading on 9/12/2012 9:21:36 AM , Rating: 2
Dirty 30's...
In case you didn't know, the US IS back on Food Stamps, to a record setting tune of 46.7 Million people

As for USA vs Japan, Korea, or Singapore... It is all about size
Japan is about the size of Montana (read: Smaller than California)
Korea, about the size of Kentucky
Singapore is smaller than the greater Atlanta Area

China is LARGER than the entire USA!
So when it comes to wiring a large area for broadband, it is better to compare a large area to a large area.
That is why

RE: Why compare China and USA
By Belard on 9/12/2012 12:12:29 PM , Rating: 2
Because we have a large population of basket-case idiots who are more ME ME, while saying "USA is #1", not knowing they live in a fantasy world. More important to be told what they want to hear, not what they need to know.

By xdrol on 9/12/2012 5:25:56 AM , Rating: 2
In the U.S. LTE speeds (..) remain well below the official specified rates.

Mkay, this seems a bit vague. Remember, this is still a radio, so you will only get max speeds when you
a, ducttape (yes, that's a verb) yourself to the base station's antennas.
b, more importantly you kill everyone else in the cell trying to use the same service (probably about 1 sqare mile in an urban area).
Both physics and the LTE standard is the same in US, Europe, and even China... (TD and FD-LTE is part of the same standard)

As usual...
By masamasa on 9/12/2012 10:59:08 AM , Rating: 2
"However, in China, the carriers are state-owned. Rather than the carriers licensing the spectrum up front and then determining deployment details on a case-by-case basis, initial deployment testing is carried out by the government and precedes any license grants."

Lack of competition does not benefit consumers.

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