China Unicom has bowed to the inevitable and has become the third and final Chinese cellco to sign up for TD-LTE.
At least, symbolically.
After much industry speculation, chairman Chang Xiaobing has confirmed that the operator has already begun building a TD-LTE trial network, citing the lure of the early issue of TD-LTE licences.
Chang said at the company’s interim result in Hong Kong that it was highly likely that TD-LTE licences would be issued first, just as TD-SCDMA was the first 3G licence handed out five years ago.
In the past, Chang had indicated a preference for FDD-LTE, the natural choice for a W-CDMA player.
But, like his counterpart Wang Xiaochu at China Telecom, his views have evolved over the last few months. Earlier this year Chang said Unicom aimed to transition to 4G through its “own strategy” – a reference to FDD – and last year spoke of “unswervingly remaining on our own technology path.”
Given the limited benefits of TD and the complete lack of detail about either the trial or future rollout, Chang’s commitment appears little more than a politically correct gesture.
China Telecom has said it will use TD as a supplement to FDD-LTE in urban areas, but Chang has not even gone that far.
Unicom will implement a TD-LTE test network to support national innovation, but it still will maintain every kind of preparation and trial for FDD-LTE. In the 4G handset and network era China Unicom still probably will be predominant.”
For all that, Chang said that while he thought the TD-LTE licence would be issued first, he didn’t think it would happen this year as the MIIT has promised.