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4G networks spreading faster than expected

2011-02-25

BEIJING - China's homegrown fourth-generation (4G) mobile technology - a means of transmitting data to wireless devices - is moving ever faster toward becoming available throughout the world and its reach may exceed expectations in the next five years.

So say officials from China Mobile Limited, which is the world's biggest telecom carrier based on its number of subscribers and which has helped develop a particular technology for transmitting data quickly in 4G networks. Speaking in December, Li Yizhong, a former minister of industry and information technology, said China's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) places an emphasis on improving 4G, the convergence of telecom and cable networks, and radio frequency identification technology.

The plan is expected to be submitted for discussion at the plenary sessions of the National People's Congress and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, both scheduled for early March.

Industry analysts have said 4G technology is likely to be widely adopted throughout the world by 2015, adding that it may be put to commercial use in China as early as 2012.

"When the technology is steadily improved, terminals and chips may improve greatly as well," said Chen Jinqiao, deputy chief engineer at the China Academy of Telecommunication Research.

Since late 2007, China Mobile has conducted leading research on Time Division-Long Term Evolution (TD-LTE) technology, which provides a particularly fast way of transmitting data through a 4G network. According to the company, the technology can easily reach a download speed of more than 100 megabytes a second, much faster than third-generation (3G) technology.

The company also said TD-LTE has won wide support from industries throughout the world, since more than 10 regions and countries will begin using the networks for commercial purposes this year.

In addition, 26 trial networks are finished or about to be completed. Nine global telecom carriers have signed cooperation agreements with China Mobile to build them.

"TD-LTE has emerged as a premium choice for the deployment of mobile broadband networks worldwide," Wang Jianzhou, chairman of China Mobile Communications Co, said at a Beijing forum held at the end of 2010.

At the recent Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona, Spain, China Mobile teamed up with six international telecom firms to jointly launch a "Global TD-LTE Initiative" campaign, which aims to promote the use of TD-LTE throughout the world.

The companies include Bharti Airtel from India, Softbank from Japan, Vodafone from the UK, and Clearwire from the US.

Meanwhile, the Polish mobile operator Aero2 announced last November that it would build the world's first commercial TD-LTE network early this year. But Sha Yuejia, executive vice-president of China Mobile Communications Co, said it is "a relatively small one" compared with the upcoming projects launched by other telecom carriers.

Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) seems ready to deploy TD-LTE services this year in India, the world's second-largest market for mobile phones after China. That would give a large boost to the spread of TD-LTE.

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