China Mobile offer to help fund handset R&D

China Mobile has offered to help fund research by the biggest phone makers to help it resolve technology problems that are threatening its expansion, the Financial Times  reports.

In an interview with the newspaper, Wang Jianzhou, chairman of China Mobile, the world's biggest mobile operator by a market capitalisation, said the company had approached Nokia, Samsung, LG and Sony Ericsson with an offer to co-fund R&D.

China Mobile opted for TD-SCDMA as its 3G solution, an unusual, unproven choice. The operator struggled with trials of TD-SCDMA handsets. While it leads the Chinese market with 464 million customers, unless it fixes its 3G problems quickly, it will find its rapidly growing rivals, China Telecom and China Unicom snapping at its heels.

Wang said in the interviews that the new TD-SCDMA handsets were better, but still not good enough, nor was there enough choice. He is offering to co-fund R&D to address both issues. Only 40 models are available, he is looking for hundreds to compete against the wealth of choice that will be available for his rivals' WCDMA 3G networks.

He added China Mobile wants dual-mode handsets that can run on its 3G and 2G wireless networks.

Wang declined to comment on how much money was on the table and said as yet no agreement had been reached, but apparently the handset makers had talks with China Mobile at the MWC in Barcelona last month and were "very excited" by the prospect.

No mention was made of Motorola, which along with the others is one of the world's top five handset makers, at least for the moment.