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Tuesday, July 10, 2001, updated at 22:22(GMT+8)

Home-grown 3G Trials Set for October

China is set to launch a large-scale field trial to test its home-grown third generation (3G) technology, TD-SCDMA (Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access), starting in October this year, industry insiders said.

The trial will be based on GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) systems and is expected to last for about a year, Yang Yigang, vice-president of Datang Telecommunications Technology & Industry Group, told Business Weekly at the Second 3G Mobile Networks China International Summit held last week in Beijing.

The forum, endorsed by the Ministry of Information Industry (MII) and the Ministry of Science and Technology, was organized by the China Institute of Communications and the Institute for International Research (IIR).

Yang said the first commercialized TD-SCDMA products are scheduled to be launched in the second quarter of 2002. In the second phase of TD-SCDMA product development, China will conduct a similar trial with IP networks at the end of this year.

Commercial products from that trial are scheduled for release in 2003 or 2004, according to Yang.

Three Chinese operators - China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Netcom - together with an undecided fourth operator, will be involved in the trial.

One of the six 3G standards recognized by the International Telecommunication Union, TD-SCDMA is being jointly developed by the China Academy of Telecommunication Technology - a major shareholder of Datang Group - and Siemens of Germany.

Siemens has promised to pour US$100 million in the development of TD-SCDMA, while Datang has already invested several million US dollars in the technology.

Compared to the Europe-supported W-CDMA standard and the Qualcomm-backed cdma2000 technology, TD-SCDMA allows operators to build a 3G network at a comparatively low cost and to utilize 3G spectrum more efficiently, with technologies like smart antennas, joint detection and up-link synchronization.

In a move to promote TD-SCMA, Datang and Chinese carriers like China Mobile and China Telecom established the TD-SCDMA Forum last year, which has now over 200 members, including Nokia, Motorola and Alcatel, as well as domestic Chinese vendors like ZTE Corp and Eastern Communications.

As China's mobile communications are evolving towards 3G mobile communication with integrated voice, data and multimedia services, the public's interest in the technology has increased. However, questions remain about whether 3G can live up to its promise.

Officials will select from W-CDMA, cdma2000 and TD-SCDMA proposals as the official technology to be used in the wireless market in the future.

China's mobile phone customers amounted to 116 million at the end of June. Mobile communications enjoys a growth rate of 20 per cent and subscribers are expected to exceed 255 million by 2005, according to statistics from the MII indicated.

Compared with the world's big mobile manufacturing, China is still weak, according to Zhang Xinsheng, deputy director-general of the science and technology department of the MII.

Operation delays

The delay in the commercial operation of 3G indicates that there are still some issues to be overcome. Market demand as well as business applications are not clear yet, he said.

"However, the delay has provided us with opportunities to develop the 3G mobile communications industry in China. We should use the time to complete the necessary work."

The delay will allow for improvements to be made by operators, manufacturers, service providers and other support industries, he said.

The introduction of data services will result in further increases in traffic in the big cities and other hot spots, which will be three times higher than the present level, experts predicted.

The lack of sufficient mobile frequency bandwidth has made the development of 3G technology more urgent.

The traffic in big cities such as Shenzhen and Shanghai has reached about 40,000 users per square kilometre, according to Wang Xiaoyun, manager of the Technology Development Division under China Mobile.

New frequencies and new technologies are needed to satisfy users' demands, she said.

The frequencies are also not sufficient to meet the demand for business growth. The existing frequencies used by China Mobile at present can only provide a capacity of 50,000 users per square kilometre after advanced technologies were adopted, such as frequency hopping and multi-level frequency multiplexing, according to Wang.

Now China Mobile has prepared for 3G operations by actively constructing China Mobile Internet and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) networks.

"China Mobile has focused on the development of the application services and prepared for the smooth migration towards 3G while improving the network carrying capability," she said.

Trials on GPRS have been conducted in seven cities and commercial use has started in some cities. Single system testing has been successfully completed for the equipment of many vendors and compatibility testing is being completed.

The network constructed in phase one project of the GPRS will be launched soon and cover 25 cities in 16 provinces. Services to be provided include WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) over GPRS, e-mail and handset banking.

As voice calls will remain the most popular mobile service, at least in the early stage of 3G construction, it will not be necessary to achieve complete coverage.

Island-mode coverage relying on the GSM network (dual-frequency and dual-mode terminal should also be adopted) will be the best choice, she said.

China Mobile's selection of 3G wireless technology standards

Main principles and considerations

Technical maturity, frequency spectrum utilization rate, capacity for global roaming, and economic network construction (which includes smooth network migration), difficulties in implementing technologies, and the degree of world-wide adoption.

Considerations in mobile network migration in China

Smoothness in network migration; the technologies should smoothly migrate to the 3G core network on the basis of the existing network by means of equipment reform or gradual introduction of new networks

Continuousness of services

The evolved network should continue to support original services with new services gradually added; switching and roaming should be guaranteed Continuousness of terminals

Multi-module and multi-frequency;

backward compatibility;

the network should not be changed frequently.

In This Section

China is set to launch a large-scale field trial to test its home-grown third generation (3G) technology, TD-SCDMA (Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access), starting in October this year, industry insiders said.

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