BEIJING - China Mobile Communications Co said on Monday that the country's top telecom regulator has approved five telecommunication equipment makers to begin construction of the fourth-generation (4G) network.
China Mobile, the world's largest telecom carrier by subscriber numbers, obtained approval from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) in December to conduct a commercial trial of the homegrown 4G network TD-LTE (Time Division-Long Term Evolution) in seven major Chinese cities. TD-LTE equipment providers have also been given the green light to provide equipment for the trial.
Xinhua News Agency said the first approved cities to host the trial network will be Shanghai, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Nanjing and Shenzhen.
According to an earlier statement by China Mobile, Beijing and Xiamen are also on the testing list, but they have yet to receive approval from MIIT.
The company said the 4G network will provide connection speeds up to 50 times faster than the current third-generation (3G) technology. China Mobile's TD-LTE standard, which has been in development since late 2007, is already considered as one of the international 4G industry standards.
Wang Jianzhou, chairman of China Mobile, said in an earlier report that the network will be available for widespread commercial use in the seven selected trial cities by the end of 2012.
The company has signed TD-LTE cooperation agreements with nine international telecom carriers and aims to build 27 trial networks globally. 4G technology is regarded as the future growth engine for the telecom industry because it can attract large amounts of capital into new network construction projects and service development.
China Mobile released its 2010 financial report on March 16. It said that the company will increase its investment budget over the next three years to 388.3 billion yuan ($59.2 billion) and "more than half of the investment will be put into basic network infrastructure, with an emphasis on the 4G infrastructure", said Ding Jing, a researcher of Nanjing Securities Co Ltd.
However, MIIT and some analysts do not believe that the 4G era will become a reality in the near future. Miao Wei, the minister of industry and information technology, told China Daily earlier that 4G "will still take three to five years" to become China's mainstream commercial network. Jake Li, a telecom analyst at Guotai Junan Securities, told China Daily that the adoption of 4G in the country "won't be that soon".
According to MIIT, China's mobile users hit 870 million by the end of January, out of which 3G users comprised 51.7 million.