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China Mobile delays giant 4G tender 

China Mobile’s massive TD-LTE tender has been delayed because the operator can’t decide whether to build a new network or upgrade from 3G.

The tender, for 200,000 base stations and 100 cities, was originally planned to start in April. Estimates of its value range wildly from $6.75 billion to as much as $30 billion.

However, executives are said to be undecided whether to buid primarily as an upgrade from the existing TD-SCDMA network using F-band spectrum (1880-1920), or to roll out new base stations using the D-band (2570-2620).

It is more than an arcane technical issue. An upgrade would favour the incumbent TD-SCDMA vendors – Huawei, ZTE and small state-owned player Datang Mobile. A new build would put all vendors on a level playing field.

According to 21st Century Business Herald (posted here on Sina Tech), the tender was supposed to have been issued in April, but will probably not be called until June.

Ericsson China executive vice-president Eric Feng told a briefing in Guangzhou yesterday China Mobile hadn’t yet issued tender documents because executives “still haven’t reached final consensus.”

So far China Mobile has rolled out limited scale TD-LTE trial networks in 13 cities, with contracts allocated among five vendors. The 2013 network is its major commercial-scale buildout ahead of formal launch, which is expected to be in the second half of the year.

Feng told journalists that the trials showed that an upgrade from 3G would suffer from interference and limited network functionality.

His recommendation was pretty much to script. Given these issues, and China Mobile’s tight timetable, Ericsson believed that the “new build is the best option,” Feng said. 

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