The first official timeline for LTE deployments in China reveals it will take between three and five years for large scale rollouts to go ahead.
China’s telecom ministry states that significant rollouts are not likely until 2014 at the earliest, but minister Miao Wei provided no guidance on whether the country will allow multiple LTE standards to run, or if it will stick with its home grown TD-LTE technology in an interview with China Daily.
The country has been actively campaigning to have TD-LTE accepted globally, however most mature markets are supporting the more common FDD-LTE.
With deployment of any 4G technology at least three years away, 3G will remain the staple for China’s carriers.
The potential for 3G in China may not yet have been reached. Figures from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) show the country had 47 million 3G users at end-2010 – less than the 60 million it expected, due to a lack of affordable 3G handsets.
Kevin Wang, an analyst at IHS iSuppli, last week told Telecoms Europe.net China’s carriers were likely to continue investing in 3G to attract users and improve ARPU.
“Today, there is no strong need for LTE networks. LTE devices are extremely limited in availability and 3G and 3.5G networks are capable of supporting most mobile applications,” Wang says.
The firm predicts China Mobile, which helped develop TD-LTE, will be the first carrier to go forth with 4G, followed by China Telecom and China Unicom.
TD-LTE trials are now underway in six cities in China.